2016 – A Year of Change

Before I get into this, I just want to update you on what’s happening with this site / blog. Going forward, this is going to be a place for me to reflect on my life along with random thoughts and hopefully interesting tidbits. For anything personal finance related (and how to reduce your monthly expenses), it will be hosted on cuthomebills.com. This site will be a playground for me to write about things that don’t fit on any of my other sites.

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I’ve been known to take long hot showers ever since I was young. I know going from 30 minutes to 5 is one the easiest things I can do to decrease water consumption, and my carbon footprint, but I haven’t been able to a place where I can let my mind wander and reflect the way it does.

Over the past 2 month’s mind wandering, it’s been focused on home renos (we’ll get to that), but today, it was on everything that happened in 2016. If I had to summarize 2016 into one word, it would be change. A hell of a lot of change, and it all came an avalanche crashing into my utopia of green fields (I just watched Planet Earth 2 the night before hence the analogy). Before I dig into the story portion of this, I’d like to highlight some changes / wins I had:

  • I started off 2016 thinking I would become a thought leader in personal optimization (helping people optimize their physical health, mental attitude to life, financial health) but realized that it’s too vauge and I needed more focus. So in 2016, I created cuthomebills.com – a place to help people get some quick meaningful wins to empower them to want to do more for themselves financially
  • Thanks to the Unleash Dreams program and my ex, I created a life mission statement: to disrupt the norm and influence change.
  • Stemming from that vision, I created my life vision: to impact one billion lives – it was the first number that got my heart pounding and hands sweating when I said it out loud
  • Books. Lots of books. For those who want a “top” list (no order)
    The One Thing
    Deep Work
    4 Hour Body
    Traction
    Originals
    Start With Why
    Outliers
    Tipping Point
    The Code of the Extraordinary Mind
    The Graveyard Book <- fiction
    Cat’s Cradle <- fiction
    Notice the fiction there? I’m learning to appreciate good writing

Okay, so those are the wins that I had that doesn’t easily fit with my change theme. The rest of the year went like this:

Starting the new year, I was definitely itching for a change with my full time job. It had been a while since I had been challenged but no option up was available at work. My mind and soul were restless – so I started looking for a new avenue to get myself moving. I started waking up at 5am, meditating, reading, writing, learning, blogging and experimenting with side businesses before work. I became so fixated on creating some sort of change, that I started to ignore most other parts of life, particularly the relationship with my girlfriend. But being oblivious to that, I thought everything was perfectly fine.

During the early wake ups, the books and courses I was sponging in, I started to realize something that they all had in common – all the people I admire have gone through hardships. And I’m not talking about ideas failing or losing a job. I’m talking about needing food stamps to survive, being told they’d never amount to anything, growing up with no sense of security. They all faced tremendous obstacles and all of them used those experiences as fuel to propel them to where they are today. I remember thinking a lot about this – how I was ever going to become an impactful, influential figure like them if the worst thing that ever happened growing up was being picked on for being the only chinese person in my school. In fact, a part of me wondered what I would do if I had to go through darker events in life.

After 4 months of this, and realizing that change will happen at work, I decided that it was time to force change myself – I would quit my day job at the end of May and give myself time to explore for two months before committing to anything. By then, I had already built up a financial nest that would last at least two months. It still wasn’t an easy thing to do. I was used to a pretty good source of income coming in. I wouldn’t call it golden handcuffs… maybe bronze-ish. But it was still the first time I ever did that. Little did I know, some people had their eyes on me. Even before my intent on leaving was exposed, I had someone I respect approach me to see if I’d be interested in a new role at a new company. It was truly an honour to be head hunted like that and it was also a new experience of a mixed bag of emotions. The change I’ve been seeking has shown up, but at the same time, I was going to be leaving a bronze handcuff for a silver. I felt that if I were to have accepted that role at that time, I was doing so more out of avoiding the unknown, and giving into the part of me that was pleading for safety.

After console with a few other friends, and reflecting on how accepting this offer would impact my self talk, I decided to let decline that opportunity. Instead, I continued to explore my own venture of creating a business to lower water consumption through high quality shower heads. I took my first entrepreneurship course and also connected with interesting people in the community. One of which, became my next destination.

Throughout university, I was heavily involved with an organization called AIESEC. We facilitated international work and volunteer opportunities for students at Laurier, and at the same time, are responsible for selling these opportunities to companies in the community. It was essentially a full time job but completely voluntary, which attracts a very specific type of person who excels in that environment – those who are deeply focused on growing themselves, and those who truly believe that the work has meaning. As a “graduate” from that organization, growth and meaning are now fundamental values that I carry. Not to mention the experience of running the organization as if I was running a startup. I loved that environment.

So when I ended up talking to a founder of a startup that was disrupting water consumption and wastage (a side effect of them being successful), I was quickly bought into the vision and landed myself the role of sales and marketing. In other words, my success was going to mean the company’s success and I had the freedom to play in it. It sounded like AIESEC all over again.

Or so I thought. At first, everything was going swell – the ideas and concepts the company was being suggested by our mentors was aligned with what I thought we should do. But as I got further into it, I felt like a few fundamental assumptions we made were flawed. By the time I had data to prove it, and started turning my focus on another target, the company decided they wanted to completely change the way we approached the market. Direct sales was dead, and with that my role.

This happened in mid October. When I found out that was their decision, a part of me was just laughing at my situation. My inner world was going through a downpour, but now it was storming. The greenery was turning into mud and the ground known as my identity crumbled. I was in free fall and there was nothing around that I could grab onto.

You see, just 6 days prior, my girlfriend of 2.5 years decided that some values we shared were not actually true. This, along with the months of neglect and contempt drove her to the decision that the relationship wasn’t going to work (she never told me any of this, but I’m assuming that after some reflecting). I don’t know if I had a chance to keep the relationship together, but I agreed to the break up. You see, some of those values we shared were an essential part of my life – there are things that I’m willing to forsake for love, but to forsake my self love and identity – the ground I proudly stood on – was not going to be one of them. As much as I love her, I couldn’t see a future together.

So summarizing 2016 to this point – dis-satisfaction with how slow life was, wondering if I’d ever face any real obstacles and then forcing change. Then four months later, my partner left and my career fell apart. My world went from me frolicking in pastures of green to falling through the ground.

On the bright side, my relationship with my family has drastically improved – a goal I had for myself ever since graduating. Unfortunately, when I was hoping for support, my dad vocalized the deep thoughts I had about myself instead. Am I actually good at sales and marketing, or was that the underlying reason for termination? Am I right to go after that ideal fantasy life of mine that I repelled such a great partner from my life? Should I just accept that life is difficult and get myself a job and settle down?

Yep, much love. Though I know he’s not the best at communicating, and that he’s just looking out for what he believes is my best interest, this was probably the most painful moment I went through that month. So while the tears built up, and the chest tightened, I took a deep breath and asked myself: Is this going to be my moment of despair, the moment I use to propel me forward and to create an internal fire? Yes it will.

Although in a way, my life has crumbled, it has also created a blank slate. I no longer have any emotional commitments. No professional commitments. A healthy body, and a pretty positive mind. In other words, this is the perfect time to escalate my 3 year goal and work abroad next year. Yep, it was time to rebuild my foundation, to make my identity that much stronger. The only thing I had that could hold me down was some minor financial commitments.

Another side note about me – I’ve been wanting to work abroad since graduating two years ago. However, at that time, I felt like I had OSAP to pay, a resume that needed some building, and realistically, a character that didn’t have the guts to say fuck it and apply anyway. Now, two years later, my OSAP still exists, along with a mortgage and insurance. My resume is still not the cleanest. But my character improved, and so I am now able to say fuck it. Let’s spend 2017 abroad, and the rest of 2016 making it possible. So what did I do with the final two months? I decided to find a way to even out my cash flow so that I can afford to go abroad and still continue paying off my debts.

I decided to renovate my basement and turn it into something that I can rent out. What skills or expertise did I have in this field – absolutely jack shit. Up to that point, I don’t think I ever held a drill before. And yes, I did it all myself.

So how exactly did those two months turn out? For the most part, pretty well. I went into a mode I never knew I could do – I started spending around 14-16 hours a day, 6 days a week, working on the basement. I learned from youtube, read up blogs, talked to home depot experts (which they really are if you find the right people). I ripped out drywalls, teared down walls, cut water pipes, and felt tingles of electricity run through my body when I forgot to turn off the power. It’s not done just yet, but I’m quite proud of what I’ve created. But more importantly, I realized just how powerful and capable I was at combining the concepts from The One Thing and Deep Work. What I accomplished in two months with prioritized focus would have easily taken me over 2 years to do if I were to have done it the normal way after work. I am now ready and excited to combine the methodologies that I’ve internalized to other parts of my life to quickly accelerate my growth and impact. This time, I won’t have to sacrifice other parts of life, something that I decided that I would not do again after experiencing a surreal moment of complete peace.

This memory was magical, and in a sense, the perfect memory to end 2016. It was after 7 weeks or so of my renos when I went to my friend’s place (well, I feel like they’re like my second family now) to let my mind and body go into a zen state (they have a sauna in their backyard). Sweating and rolling in the snow was great for healing the body, but what really made it magical and healing for the brain was when I was sitting in their hot tub watching the light purple sky behind the ever so perfect trees and just noticing the large snowflakes drifting down ever so gently and disappearing when it meets the steam from the hot tub. It was then that I really realized how many great moments like these I brushed off this past year. How many memories I could have committed to remembering, how much richer my life could have been. It was also this moment when I decided that 2017 will be different. I will escape my type A personality of being a futurist and instead be both excited about present and of my future.

See how powerful these showers are? That’s not even all that ran through my head.

It was also during this shower that I realized how powerful the random thought that Tim Ferriss has referenced to involving a monk named Siddhartha. You can read the whole thing here, but what I’d like to focus on is the exchange of words Siddhartha has with a merchant:

Merchant: “. . . If you are without possessions, how can you give?”
Siddhartha: “Everyone gives what he has. The soldier gives strength, the merchant goods, the teacher instruction, the farmer rice, the fisherman fish.”
Merchant: “Very well, and what can you give? What have you learned that you can give?”
Siddhartha: “I can think, I can wait, I can fast.”
Merchant: “Is that all?”
Siddhartha: “I think that is all.”
Merchant: “And of what use are they? For example, fasting, what good is that?”
Siddhartha: “It is of great value, sir. If a man has nothing to eat, fasting is the most intelligent thing he can do. If, for instance, Siddhartha had not learned to fast, he would have had to seek some kind of work today, either with you, or elsewhere, for hunger would have driven him. But, as it is, Siddhartha can wait calmly. He is not impatient, he is not in need, he can ward off hunger for a long time and laugh at it. Therefore, fasting is useful, sir.”

As Tim puts it,

“I can think” → Having good rules for decision-making, and having good questions you can ask yourself and others.
“I can wait” → Being able to plan long-term, play the long game, and not misallocate your resources.
“I can fast” → Being able to withstand difficulties and disaster. Training yourself to be uncommonly resilient and have a high pain tolerance.
Over the past year, I don’t know if I can say that I have come up with good rules or good questions that I ask. I can, however, say that I have learned to wait – to not jump onto what is deemed safe the moment the waters got a little rough. I have learned fast -to withstand what can be argued as the most difficult situation I’ve been in so far, and instead of jumping onto what I’m familiar with, I decided to extend my unemployment and focused on developing a skill that I believe would help me multiple folds throughout life.

So all in all, 2016 was a year of change. I dipped my fingers in many pies, I fell the furthest I’ve fallen and I’ve gotten up more driven than ever. As for 2017… if I had to choose a word right now, it’d be communication. I’m also going to try something new. Instead of focusing on resolutions / goals, I rather focus on creating systems (a lesson that I’ve stumbled upon a few times, but most recently through Darren Hardy’s neat little morning program which I suggest you all check out).

Systems that I’d like to incorporate include:

  • Continue with the concept of the one thing and deep work to continue to stay focused in order to have the biggest impact – I should focus on one major goal / change each month or until it’s been built into my routine so that I can go further with less time.
  • Working abroad – continuing off the goal I’ve set for 2016, 2017 will be when I live and work in another country. I will grow myself professionally, but more importantly, it’s time for me to almost start with a blank slate and rediscouver myself.
  • Developing my marketing and storytelling through either work or through the personal finance website cuthomebills.com – my first vehicle in helping me reach my mission life mission of disrupting the norm and influencing change, and my vision of impacting one billion people.
  • Turn reading, writing, working out, and journaling to a daily habit like meditation – all of these things exist as part of 2016, and in some cases, lasted most of 2016. But as soon as I went into focus on home renos, the only thing that lasted was meditation.
  • Go through Wim Hof’s program of breathing, Jim Kwik’s speed reading and the Vipassana Meditation – all programs that I believe would change my life significantly.
  • Connect deeply with people – it doesn’t have to be with just a significant other, but in 2016, I decided to double down on Jim Rohn’s quote of you are the average of the 5 people you spend the most time with. In 2017, I want to fundamentally understand those I would like to be a part of my life.
  • Continue to challenge myself – although I don’t really hope for another 2016 (but who knows, maybe Chungsoon 2021 would say that’s exactly what I needed), I do hope to challenge myself through better expressing of my thoughts and emotions. In other words, learn to communicate.
  • Learn to savour moments and to just enjoy the flow of daily life – I’ve downloaded an app called 1 second everyday. Should help remind me to savour the moments.
  • Find a way to continue growing my passive income – my ex thinks I treat life like a big game – I agree. First victory point – have my net income hit break even.

I’m sure that there will be new things that pop up… as early as mid Jan, but I’m going to try to do a better job of putting it down on a page and let myself sit on that idea for a few weeks / months before putting it down as a goal for the year.

And finally, a list of people to thank. Some of you played pivotal roles throughout the year. Some inspired me. Some picked me up. Some challenged. Some just made me smile. Regardless of what you did, I’d like to express my gratitude from the bottom of my heart. You made my 2016 and have helped crafted the future Chungsoon. Thank you to (all initials, could be multiple people with same initials, no order except #1, cause you know, #1 and all, definitely not exclusive to only those initials)

My family and cousins
DI
JF
TM
SY
GW
CC
JM
JS
DG
GT
TK

TF
CN
GK
LP
ZC
HK
HP
MV
JH
SL
JD

DV
EG
CK
KJ
YZ
JW
JA
SR
KM
CB
LG

Let’s not forget you, the unknown person – thank you. It really means a lot to know that someone have taken the time to read up to this point. The only problem now is “knowing” if someone read it. So if you’re willing to let yourself be known, I’d love if you could either subscribe to this site / blog, or if you could leave a comment, or even shoot me an email – CH@chungsoon.com. Regardless, I appreciate you and I hope you were able to extract even the tiniest of wisdom, insight or motivation through this. Also, please let me know if there were certain parts that you found most interesting and parts where you started skimming – I’m new to all this communication feedback so everything is welcome!

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