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Annual Review 2021

My tendency is to look forwards in time. What’s next? This means I have a resistance to doing things like reviews. My brain’s novelty bias avoids stuff that feels old. But there’s a reason I reviewed 2020 and why I’m doing it again now: it helps me make memories.

This passage from Derek Sivers How to Live really hit me:

“If you can’t remember something, it’s like it never happened.
You could have a long healthy life, but if you can’t remember it, it’s like you had a short life.

To enjoy your past is to live life.

People often remark where did the time go? Covid times have been filled with sentiments like What is time? Everything has blended together these past 2 years. Doing a review is my way of reasserting agency over my own time.

Doing this annual review was pure joy. As I went through Google Photos month by month, I’m reminded of beautiful moments that made up my year. I shocked by how much I’ve forgotten, including the good stuff.

For the total amount of review time, about 5 hours split across 2 days, I got in return an entire year of memories. If that’s not good return on investment, I don’t know what is.

In the process of reviewing my memories, I’ve renewed my memories.

Here start with my top lessons of 2021, then go into detail with notable events by category, and end with what I’m creating going into 2022.

⚡️ Quick hits: Top Lessons of 2021

Lifestyle design. The past few years have felt like “heads down” hard work, and this year I began looking up. I’ve totally missed my own financial freedom milestone, which led me to realize that emotional freedom is more important. To that end, I’ve adopted a mindset of creating my own good energy and sharing it with others, rather than waiting for fun or life to happen for me. I’m shifting my energy from making money to creating fun.

Embrace messy productivity. I tend to over-think and over-prepare things vs diving right in. You should see the way I pack for travel. I’m learning to let loose and embrace chaos, which will be essential to how I approach lifestyle design.

Feedback loops are important to me and in various domains of life. My desired feedback loop always involves other people in some way, whether through literal feedback, a conversation or formal accountability. It’s my way of trying to find a sense of connectedness in what I do. This gives direction to my creative pursuits, and helps give my life meaning. I’m really good at doing things solo, but I want to lean into how to involve others .

Travel, whether big or small trips, continue to be one of the best investments I can make. I’d like to go on more frequent short trips around California, and also host events at my home more often.

Crypto is money legos. In 2021 I poked my head into decentralized finance and it’s dawning on me that DeFi will continue to eat the traditional finance world.

Relationships: I’m clearer than ever on my core needs and have identified that when I think “am I asking for too much?” that’s just scarcity mindset talking. I also learned to trust in the healing of my partners during the breakup, and that reaching out post breakup is self-serving. I’ve operated with this insight for a while, but internalized with the feeling of trusting in someone else’s journey.

You’ll see me cross reference some of these lessons in the deeper dive.

Top Highlights and Notable Events

🌎 Travels

As the year opened up in terms of pandemic restrictions, I also traveled more. The first half of the year involved local travels with my ex: Big Bear, San Diego, Orange County. The last half of the year involved festivals like Day Trip and Same Same But Different. Then I had a marvel of a time in San Miguel de Allende and Guadalajara. As I write this, I’m ending/start the year by heading to Puerto Rico for the first time.

I’m just grateful that I was able to travel at all this year. I feel full, and this is a good heuristic: as I reviewed my year, I didn’t feel myself saying I wish I traveled more. I did my thing, I lived life, I have no regrets.

📝 Writing

I kicked off the year joining On Deck Writers, a cohort-based course to connect with other writers. It was the first writing course of any kind I’ve taken since college, and the experience was generally positive. On Deck showed me the power of getting feedback, and also the power of cohort based courses (On Deck was very well run). I told myself that if I made one friend from the program, that’d be a success. And it was, I’m proud to call the multitalented Drew Stegmaier my friend.

6 months later, I desired a tighter feedback loop with my writing and ended up joining Ship 30 for 30. It’s a writing program focused on shipping 30 pieces of content a day, along with a motivated community. I like this format and accountability so much that I’m going to kick off 2022 with a new cohort.

Topically, in 2021 I decided to focus on writing about money. Picking a niche is hard so I used the infinite game heuristic: do I have endless things to say about this topic? After 44 newsletters, yes.

Over the course of the year it became clearer to me that I’d focus on beginner investors and finance newbies. A mission emerged: help people feel a sense of ease and power with money. I aim to do that by making finance fun (or at least help people think about it in less boring ways) and reduce the perceived barriers to investing.

However, I’m not married to my current way of writing. I’ll say more in the What I’m creating next section.

😷 Getting Covid in August and recovering

I can’t speak about 2021 without mentioning Covid. I was double vaxxed and still got the Covid, most likely the Delta variant.

Here’s the full post about my Covid experience.

There’s nothing that makes me appreciate my health than getting sick. Because Covid brought me closer to death, I came out of this experience with the desire to use my body more, be even more active and live life. #YoloResponsibly

🔁 Habits

  • Finally started journaling: Before I’d journal reactively, like once a month and I didn’t write my thoughts down in a centralized place. Now I have a journal template in Notion that works well for me, and now journal at least once a week.
  • Picked up poi after being inspired by flow artists at the Same Same But Different festival. If you don’t know what that is, poi literally means “ball” from the Maori tribe, and you spin it at the end of a string. It’s given me a sense of personal flow.
  • Cardio: I run a lot more now, even if it’s just a half mile to the park. I also play dodgeball weekly. The realization was just that even though lifting feels more “efficient,” cardio reliably elevates my mood.
  • I started posting more on social media, which was kickstarted by my San Miguel de Allende trip. I realized that a lot of my connections are now on Instagram. I resisted IG for a while, but now I see it as a way to make my memories concrete and reconnect with my circles.

Here are some habits I didn’t get to:

  • Dance: for 3 weeks after recovering from Covid I went out dancing to feel the joie de vivre. I thought I’d reactivate Latin dance, but decided to take it easy. I’m excited to start bachata lessons starting January.
  • Drawing: this was one of those goals that sounded good in my head, but didn’t feel very grounded in true desire. I decided that it was generally more exciting for me to share my ideas in a visual format, which can take the form of memes or graphs, and not necessarily drawing things myself from scratch. I decided to let go of this goal, and may revisit it in 2022.
  • Contact improv: This was one event that kept showing up in my calendar but I never bothered to go. Guess it’s just a mild interest versus a deep curiosity.
  • Reading: I read so little books this year, and read a lot more articles. I’d like to make more room for deep reading, at least 30 minutes a day. I never regret focused reading because I get so many ideas out of it.

I’m now re-interested in meta learning more than ever before. I’ll be diving into books like Ultralearning, 4 Hour Chef, Motivation Hacker and Atomic Habits.

Even my head knows the concepts of starting small and progress over perfection, I’ve lost a bit of that muscle when it comes to new habits.

❤️ Relationships and community

As the rate of new friendships decreases over time (often by choice), I aim to deepen my existing relationships.

This year, one of my joys was to deepen my connection with my group of high school friends I grew up with. Not a lot of people (as I’ve been told) have such longstanding relationships, and I’m really treasuring these friendships that have spanned 16+ years.

In the midst of the pandy, I set up a monthly virtual poker night, which was really fun. That’s now stopped in lieu of seeing each other in meatspace.

Hey Oz, you used to do these cool Dinner with Strangers events. What happened to that?

I have a desire to connect with friends on a regular basis. Time to be a masternode again.

  • Weekly or semi-monthly hangouts at my place. Deep convos fill my soul, so I’d love to set up a salon-style format where we all discuss ideas.
  • Other ideas: board games, poker, movie nights.
  • Coworking with my friends while I still have the option to work remotely

I plan to bring back dinners and hangouts at my house. And also, organize hiking trips and fun excursions around LA.

Alright, I put off talking about it until now. Of course I can’t mention relationships with the most emotionally significant event of my year: the start and end of a relationship.

💞 A Year In Two Halves

So much of my year was demarcated by before the breakup and after the breakup, because my relationship ended in June, exactly halfway through 2021.

She is a beautiful soul. A wonderful human being. I loved her. We traveled a lot (despite the pandemic) and made wonderful memories.

And yet…it wasn’t right for me. I wasn’t able to be authentically myself in that relationship. At no fault of my previous partner; we’re simply different.

I’ll dedicate a whole post to relationship lessons, but here are some personal takeaways:

Couple’s therapy is helpful and worth every penny. I value how a skillful facilitator can create a safe space for each person to express their needs.

Children: this relationship helped me really get clear that I do want children someday, but I do not want it to be on a timeline. Our conversations around this made me deeply appreciate a woman’s sense of time. One of my friends said it best: if she wants kids and you’re not sure, don’t camp on her eggs.

Conversation: This is the big one for me. Words of affirmation is my #1 love language and my need wasn’t being met here. I deeply desire a relationship in which I feel like I can share anything with my partner, and that she could share anything with me. Freedom in expression is what makes me feel deeply connected, and my closest friendships and relationships exhibit that quality. My ex really, really tried, but at the end of the day we weren’t compatible here.

I asked my friends for feedback—was I was being too demanding or picky? They validated how I felt, and also pointed out some blind spots. Personal realization: I have the tendency to ask why and dig, and while many others find this style of conversation intrusive.

Me: Why do you think that happened?
Friend: I don’t know, I don’t want to talk about it.
Me: Why don’t you want to talk about it?
Friend: Because I just don’t want to!

They say that relationships are mirrors. How we show up with others actually shows what’s going on inside.

I saw how attached I was to this love language. I worked this spot and feel more easy going in conversations now. There’s no longer the urge to tie up every loose thread, and have a better sense of flow.

Emotionally, this was the most significant event of 2021 for me. I did my best to sunset the relationship, and I feel a sense that I was supposed to have this relationship in my journey. It’s made me into a better person, and a ready partnert for the next connection.

🗓 2022 Goals: What I’m Creating Next

The theme of next year is nothing new: Connection. But it’s taking shape in slight more nuanced ways.

In my work, I seek to foster connected creativity. Not just writing my articles and seeing views go up, but to engage with people. This can take the form of small group coaching, webinars, or even holding learning sessions at my home. I’ve already gotten such a huge buzz from my 1:1 money coaching chats—these convo’s drive make concepts and consequences that much more real.

In my personal life, I seek more consistent, intentional time spent with friends. I tend to be pretty reactive here (“What’s good this weekend?”) and would like to create more magic points of connection for my circles through potlucks, salons, and opening my house as a place where friends can stop by any time.

Personal product roadmap

Working in tech, the idea of a product roadmap is commonplace. What feature to launch? How do we want the next quarters to play out? Having an exciting product roadmap is not only good for the business & PR, but also motivates the team.

In a similar fashion, I’m thinking about what my personal roadmap can look like in 2022.

  • Money coaching: There’s multiple ways to do money coaching. I started with 1:1 sessions (sign up here) but want to play with small group formats. Maybe that’ll be a finance book club, webinars, or a group course. Either way, I’m going to experiment with a lot more educational offers in 2022.
  • DeFi continues to fascinate me. I’ll be rabbit hole-ing into DeFi protocols and become a small-time degenerate playing with high risk / high yield protocols.
  • Personal storyteling: I want to tell more personal stories and I think this will take the form of a podcast or video. I think about death once a week, and sometimes several times a week. The drive for legacy makes me want to share more about my life beyond just writing about money.
  • 30 day challenges: I plan to do 3 thirty day challenges. The first two involve taking Ship 30 for 30 cohorts at the beginning and midway through 2022. The third challenge is to wake up every day by 630AM every day in pursuit of my goals.
  • Intentional dating: I’m more ready than ever to create a lasting relationship. It feels good to make this goal-less, but just approach it with a strong intention. How I show up here will affect the type of person I attract.

At first blush, this seems like a lot to handle but the ideas of feedback loops and messy productivity is what I’ll anchor back to.

Whew, what a year!

This is the presentation layer of my annual review. A lot went into it prior to publishing, and I’ve kept a lot of personal details off this review. If you’re curious about the annual review process, let me know. I’m looking to share lessons and a template in another dedicated post.

This year-end review was obviously more written for myself than others. Thank you if you made it through this far. I’m already looking to make 2022 the best year ever.

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