2020 New Year’s Resolutions

Happy New Year from Taipei, Taiwan!!

For quite a few years now, I’ve been writing out my annual goals and publishing them here on this blog. I’m going to skip the usual preface, as it’s getting repetitive, but suffice to say that it’s been a good exercise to force me to really think about how I’m spending my time each year, and whether or not I’m moving in a good direction.

2019’s theme was habits. Since 2019’s goal set was more-or-less a continuation of 2018’s, I decided to change the execution a little bit. The reasoning behind a habit-driven approach was that many long-term macro goals require habitual adjustments on the micro level. I wrote a deeper reflection on 2019 elsewhere, but at a high-level I think this approach was correct. However, I asked myself to do a little more than was realistic in 2019, and there were probably a few periods where I experienced burnout without realizing it.

2020 is also largely going to be a continuation of 2018’s goal set, with a few changes and additions. I am still going to focus on building good habits. However, I am also going to intentionally make some of these habits a little easier to accomplish so that it’s more likely I feel I can complete them all in a given day.

At the end of the day, I think a lot of what makes habits work is consistency, not magnitude. A common tactic I’ve seen is to trick yourself into doing more by committing yourself to doing less. For example, by asking myself to read just two pages every night rather than to nebulously read before bed, I create an easily accomplishable, quantifiable, and well-scoped goal that I’m more likely to create space for. Odds are once I’ve started the process of reading, I’ll likely read for longer than just two pages.

I am also hoping to create a little more space in my life for flexibility and spontaneity. I think letting myself have some free time left over to reinvest however I situationally see fit is important–a lot of my best ideas actually come during times when I’m not “supposed” to be doing anything else.

Regardless, as time goes on and I feel comfortable with my load, I can always make things a little tougher. To that end, this year I’m going to be better about taking some time at the end of each quarter to really evaluate my progress on these goals and whether the load needs to be adjusted in either direction. This will be a period of 2-3 days each quarter where I release myself from obligation to do anything else (work included) so I can really think critically about my goals. Here are the dates I’ve blocked off on my calendar to do this, since I’m pretty sure if I don’t block these dates off now, I won’t make space for review:

  • Q1: April 3rd to April 5th
  • Q2: July 3rd to July 5th
  • Q3: October 2nd to October 4th
  • Q4: December 28th to December 30th

TBD as to whether or not I’ll publish each of these reviews, since polishing pieces for public consumption does take extra time and effort, though I will publish end of year reflections as usual.

In deciding on my goal set this year, I examined last year’s progress in combination with a rough “bucket list” of things I want to do and things I’m still afraid of.

Here is the bucket list, which is in no particular order and by no means comprehensive, since it was written off the top of my head:

  • Attend Le Cordon Bleu in France in French
  • Learn to make sushi in Japan in Japanese
  • Go to law school (?)
  • Run for public office (?)
  • Get licensed to fly planes
  • Get licensed to sail larger boats
  • Go on some cool, unique adventures
    • Grand Canyon rafting
    • Alishan, Taiwan climbing
    • Yushan, Taiwan climbing
    • See Ha Long Bay in Vietnam
    • Explore the Amazon rainforest
  • Attend the Olympics in a country I love
  • Learn to build successful products, businesses, and organizations
  • Study all kinds of philosophies and gain a deep intellectual understanding of lots of academic disciplines that underlie human behavior and the world around us
  • Be able to communicate and create a connection with people from all around the world, in their own language, and without using my own
  • Cultivate an abundance mentality around women and sex
  • Write a book
  • Write more about philosophy and life on my blog
  • Reach and maintain a level of fitness where I feel happy, healthy, and confident with my body and abilities
  • Learn martial arts
  • Improve my relationship with my immediate family
  • Perform in an improv show
  • Create my own thesis for the goal of life and what it means for individuals, societies, and governments
  • Find my own way to make the world a better place

I probably won’t be touching most of the above this year, but a few are of interest:

  • Fitness and health are going to be an important focus this year
  • Cultivating an abundance mentality around women and sex will also be an important focus this year
  • I will continue working on my own business, and consulting for startups this year
  • I will continue to work on my language studies this year
  • I’m planning to attend therapy sessions and hope that insights and learnings from those will help to improve my relationship with my immediate family
  • If I’m lucky, I’ll find some affordable dojos to learn martial arts in Asia
  • I am hoping to attend the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo, though I need to decide whether or not any remaining tickets are interesting and not cost prohibitive
  • I will likely have some cool adventures in Taiwan, Vietnam, and Japan this year
  • In the unlikely case I find I have a lot of free time, I may purchase X-Plane 11 and start teaching myself the basics of aviation

Things I’m still afraid of:

  • Rejection
    • Talking to attractive women, especially women I don’t know already
    • Feeling isolated and alone; unloved/unlovable
  • Regret
    • Feeling like I wasted my time
    • Feeling like I missed opportunities I should have taken
  • Commitment
    • Getting trapped in a relationship that doesn’t help me become who I want to be (or trapping someone in a relationship that doesn’t help them become who they want to be)
    • Getting trapped in an unhappy relationship
    • Choosing a career path or job that bores me or leaves me feeling unfulfilled
  • Death/Aging
    • Letting my youth slip away
    • Not doing certain things before I get too old to do them

With the exception of talking to attractive women, most of the above can probably only be dealt with through time, contemplation, and maybe a little therapy. Since I do intend to find a therapist this year, perhaps I’ll unpack some of this.

Finally, here are 2020’s goals:

  • Language learning
    • Learn French
      • OKR: Pass a B2 language test in French
        • I’m thinking I might take this in Hanoi, where official French language tests can be found at a discount
      • Spend 3 months focused on learning French
        • OKR: Log at least 4.5 hours of conversation or class time each week.
          • If I like this model, I may consider implementing it in other countries for other languages. Thus far I’ve been hesitant to sign-up for classes due to cost and concerns that classes might move too slowly or fail to fit with some of my existing language learning workflows.
    • Learn Japanese
      • OKR: Memorize the first 600-1000 most common words in Japanese.
      • OKR: Spend 3 months in Japanese-speaking countries
        • Realistically, this means spending 3 months in Japan
    • Learn Chinese
      • OKR: Spend 3 months in Chinese-speaking countries
        • I’m unlikely to go anywhere other than Taiwan to do this
    • Habit: Complete Anki reviews daily.
  • Improve my health
    • Get back into shape
      • Get lean
        • Reach 10% body fat
          • Habit: Measure body composition every day so I can tell if current efforts are working
          • Habit: Track the foods I eat every day so I can correlate diet to fat loss
      • OKR: Find a training program I feel I can trust and stick to it unless body composition results show I’m not moving toward where I want to go. Re-evaluate programs every ~12 weeks.
        • Ideal program includes HIIT, weightlifting, and endurance cardio; has 5 workouts a week; and does not take longer than ~60 minutes per workout on average
      • OKR: Find a diet plan and stick to it long enough to evaluate results.
        • In the past I haven’t been consistent about this to really evaluate, and I haven’t had access to a way to measure my body fat
          • This time, I’m traveling with a digital scale that can measure my body fat 🙂
        • In the past it’s also been time intensive to prepare my own meals, which sometimes causes me to fall off the cart
          • This time, I’m also traveling with a sous vide machine, which, aside from just being a fun chef’s toy, promises to make cooking certain things (e.g. chicken breast) super low effort and actually really tasty
        • Things I’d like to try:
          • Calorie restriction and macronutrients
          • Slow carb diet
            • This one is attractive because of its “cheat day” concept, which keeps me from feeling deprived of my favorite foods, and because it doesn’t strictly require me to log what I eat
          • Keto diet
      • Habit: Exercise at least 3 days a week
  • Learn to talk to attractive women
    • OKR: Create and complete a 30-day challenge for myself with challenges sourced from friends
      • This should force accountability similar to my rejection challenges back in the day
    • OKR: Complete the challenges from Rules of the Game
    • OKR: Delete all dating apps, and don’t use them for the entire year
      • This will force me away from outlets that might make me feel like I’m making progress when I’m really not
  • Launch a successful project
    • OKR: Launch at least 2 projects of my own this year.
      • This number is down from last year, as I’m realizing the time it takes to really test a complex idea and reach product market fit is closer to 3-6 months than it is to 1-3 months.
    • OKR: Take on no more than 3 months of consulting work this year.
      • This should be sufficient to fund my lifestyle for the year
    • Habit: Work on projects 6 hours a day
  • Read more
    • OKR: Read 52 books
      • There are actually specific topics I’d like to see myself delve into further, but… for now I’ll just settle for increasing volume.
    • Learn to speed read
      • OKR: Eliminate subvocalization while reading
      • Habit: For at least 3 months, spend 10 minutes using speed reading training software each day
        • I purchased a license for 7 Speed Reading awhile back, but never really made use of it
      • Habit: Take a reading speed test every week or two to measure progress
    • Habit: Read at least 2 pages a day
      • Keeping the number small so I can develop this into a habit and feel like this is easy to accomplish
  • Deepen my mindfulness practice
    • Meditate more (aim for once a day; consistency matters more than duration)
      • Habit: Use Headspace to meditate every day shortly after waking up
    • OKR: Spend some time at a Plum Village location in Asia
      • Hong Kong and Thailand are both good ideas
      • I’m currently registered for one week in Plum Village, Thailand, from March 6 until March 13, though this is still cancellable
  • Write more
    • OKR: Write one blog post per new city/country I live in
      • ~Approximately once every 3 months
    • OKR: Finally write the blog post I’ve been meaning to write about “ideal love” theory
    • Habit: Write at least 100 words every weekend
      • Again something small just to force myself to find time to sit down and write regularly
  • Improve my relationship with my immediate family
    • OKR: Find an online therapist I like to help me navigate difficult emotional issues involving family relationships
      • I’m going to try BetterHelp for a little while and see how I like it
    • Habit: Call each family member weekly
    • Habit: Discuss progress on family relationships with a therapist weekly

Here are the habits extracted from the above for my own convenience:

  • Daily
    • Read 2 pages a day
    • Use Headspace to meditate every day shortly after waking up
    • Complete Anki reviews
    • Measure body composition
    • Track foods I eat
    • Work on projects 6 hours a day
    • For at least 3 months, spend 10 minutes using speed reading training software
  • Weekly
    • Write 100 words every weekend
    • Call each family member
    • Discuss progress on family relationships with a therapist
    • Exercise at least 3 days a week
    • Take a reading speed test to measure progress
  • Quarterly
    • Review these goals and adjust load as needed

And here are the OKRs:

  • Pass a B2 language test in French
  • For 3 months, log at least 4.5 hours of conversation or class time in French
  • Memorize the first 600-1000 most common words in Japanese
  • Spend 3 months in Japanese-speaking countries
  • Spend 3 months in Chinese-speaking countries
  • Find a training program I feel I can trust and stick to it
  • Find a diet plan and stick to it
  • Create and complete a 30-day challenge for myself with challenges sourced from friends
  • Complete the challenges from Rules of the Game
  • Delete all dating apps and don’t use them for the entire year
  • Launch at least 2 projects of my own this year
  • Take on no more than 3 months of consulting work this year
  • Read 52 books
  • Eliminate subvocalization while reading
  • Spend some time at a Plum Village location in Asia
  • Write one blog post per new city/country I live in
  • Write a blog post about “ideal love” theory
  • Find an online therapist I like to help me navigate difficult emotional issues involving family relationships

Most of these goals aren’t new, and I’ve written extensively about why I’m pursuing each of them in the past, so I won’t rehash them all here. Rather, I’ll just cover the ones that are new or feel like they continue to require explanation.

Improve my relationship with my immediate family

Relationship with self and relationship with family have been rising themes in my life for awhile now. I grew up in a household where my parents seldom got along. Neither of them ever really seemed to know how to deal with their own emotions, let alone with each other’s. As a result, I don’t think my parents were ever really capable of teaching me how to do these things for myself–after all, it’s difficult teach things that you haven’t yet mastered yourself. My lack of aptitude in these areas lent itself to a lot of struggle, particularly in my high school and college years. I never really had a template for healthy relationships. For a very long time, I don’t think I had a particularly healthy relationship with myself.

These are difficult issues, and I’m sure I’m not the only one who never felt equipped by their parents to deal with them. There are a lot of unhappy and unhealthy relationships out there, and I think a lot of the insecurities, emotional issues, fears, and biases that people have probably stem from the effect that familial issues had on them. What’s particularly alarming about these kinds of issues is that in many cases they can become generational. Without conscious examination and practice, people tend to become emotionally deficient in similar ways to their parents. This means that that hot temper one of your parents has, or a tendency to be physically, emotionally, or verbally abusive may actually be an outgrowth of similar issues that their parents had, and even their parents before them. It also means that if we’re not careful, and we don’t work on ourselves, we will tend to pass these deficiencies to our own children in turn. (I think this is the source of the common aphorism “people tend to become their parents.”)

In my case, because home life was always so turbulent, I’ve done my best to learn from my parents’ mistakes and shortcomings. I now feel I’ve overcome a lot of the issues I started out with–a tendency for self-loathing expressed as extreme judgment towards self and others; mild social anxiety; a fear of trusting my own instincts and following my own path.

But the fact remains that my parents and sister still struggle with some of the things they’ve always struggled with, both with themselves, and with each other. And the fact remains that when I’m back with them, I tend to revert to old habits without realizing. Despite the progress I’ve made for myself over the years, I am ashamed to admit that my relationship with my parents–with my father, in particular–is often shaky at best.

I’ve wanted to resolve these issues with my parents for a long while now and the first time this entered my thoughts was in 2017 when I lived at home in San Diego for 6 months before starting my journey as a nomad. The first time this entered my writing, was in 2018, when understanding and healing my relationship with my parents became a major theme of my stay in Plum Village.

So why is this finally becoming so urgent as to make its way into my annual goals? Well, I had a girlfriend in Mexico City, and my parents came to visit over Thanksgiving. Naturally, I felt it made sense for my family to meet my girlfriend and vice-versa, so that I could ideally spend quality time with all of them without losing out on time with any of them. Unfortunately, even without me in the mix, a day with my family can be a stressful endeavor… and when I enter the fray without the right mindset, I tend to just make things worse.

Suffice to say that after a few days with my family, my girlfriend told me one night that she was extremely disappointed in my behavior toward both my mother and my father, despite my feeling like I had been on relatively good behavior. She also felt somewhat unwelcome by my sister, who likely felt like my bringing my girlfriend along detracted from quality time I could be spending with her. My girlfriend and I had a small fight over this all of this, and not without reason from her end. All of this is to say that for the first time in my life, I realized just how negatively my relationship with my family and the relationships within my family might affect my own romantic relationships.

If I didn’t have enough reasons to take action on this before, here arises yet another.

Learn to talk to attractive women

One of my biggest fears when I make this goal public is that people will think I want to sleep around, so I continue to feel the need to clarify that this goal isn’t really about that. Yes, this is part of a larger desire to have a more abundant mindset when it comes to women and sex, but I don’t actually need that to mean that I have lots of sex, just more to feel like it’s not far out of reach if I did want it, whether or not I actually act on the impulse. (And for the record, my existing experience with more casual physical intimacy without emotional intimacy has already left me not so desirous of more.)

This goal also isn’t really about finding a girlfriend or eventual life partner. From where I’m sitting right now, I’m not even sure if I want to be in a relationship. If I were to get into a relationship, it would have to be one where I feel the relationship actually pushes me to grow, rather than just taking time and energy away from my own growth efforts. More on all of that when I eventually write about love…

Instead, this is really more about establishing a mindset that allows me to be confident I’m making dating decisions from a place of excitement/love/abundance instead of a place of anxiety/fear/scarcity. A clear example of the difference here would be someone who chooses a partner because they feel inadequate or insecure, fearing that they can’t do any better than this partner and should just settle for what they have now versus someone who chooses a partner because they are confident and whole, but think that this partner is someone extraordinary that they’d like to have in their lives, and truly stands out above all of the other options, including the option of being happy on one’s own. I don’t know about you, but I’d like to be the latter, thanks.

Where I am now, I think there are still lingering feelings of inadequacy or insecurity that trigger a deep fear of talking to some women. I think getting over this will help me to feel like, while not everyone is going to be a good fit for me, nobody is “out of my league” so that I can feel confident that whoever I ultimately choose, I chose them because I actually love them and want to be with them, not just because I was secretly or subconsciously afraid I couldn’t do better. It will also help me to learn to just treat people like people, rather than putting certain people on pedestals.

Now, this is a goal that has been appearing in some form for years. And anybody following these goals from year to year would be totally justified in rolling their eyes and asking me what in the hell is going to be different this year. Part of the difficulty has been that traveling makes this even harder by adding a language barrier that often all but guarantees I’ll make a fool out of myself. Most of it is really just that I’ve been dreading addressing this and have been avoiding it.

I’m hoping a couple of things are going to be different. Firstly, I’m going to find a couple sources for challenges to execute for this goal. Two obvious sources for challenges will be: 1) friends who want to see me suffer 😛 and 2) the book Rules of the Game by Neil Gaiman. Regarding #2, say what you will about the pick-up community–I, myself, do not support many of the pick-up communities practices after having read many, many books on the subject–but they do have a good handle on what it takes for a guy to push his comfort zone in this area, which is exactly what I need right now.

Secondly, I’m mentally committing myself to pressing forward with this even given that language barriers are an added challenge. Am I going to make a fool out of myself I’m forced to speak e.g. Chinese during some of these challenges? Probably. But then, that’s actually sort of the point–put myself out there, fail if I have to, and get comfortable with all of the emotions involved.

Sometime this year, I’ll be making these challenges a priority and will be holding myself publicly accountable for them. I likely won’t be videotaping any of this as I did last time, but I likely will write about some of the challenges. Stay tuned.

That’s it! To anyone out there reading this: I hope this was helpful, thank you for taking the time, and I wish you a fantastic 2020! Good luck moving towards wherever it is you hope to go.

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