I’ve been staring at this blank page for several minutes now, running off every so often to pet my pup, check email, or scroll through Twitter. As someone who has an extreme allergy to Twitter, I can tell this is my body’s sign that I really don’t want to do something.
In this scenario, I really don’t want to write.
When it comes to writing, putting words on paper has never been the struggle for me — the cacophony of thoughts usually have no problem transforming from ephemeral inklings into physical text. My Everest tends to be piecing the ideas together to form a cohesive statement. I’ve always been rather talkative, in person and in my own head.
But what to do when you don’t want to think?
I’d rather forget.
For this annual reflection, the area I’m struggling with is actually forcing myself to think and reflect on a year that in all honesty, I wish I could forget.
When I think of this year, I sense my thoughts tinged with a layer of sadness. A melancholy grey similar to the cloudy weather out my window while I type this. I’m not sure what specifically from this year is manifesting this color, but like everyone, I am sure I can think of more than a few.
2020 was many things.
On top of being a year filled with the countless news cycle of pandemics, painful goodbyes, quarantines, politics, and racial truth, it’s been the first year since I walked away from a corporate job and industry I could not bring myself to love.
It was the first time I’ve been so physically separated from my family for such a long time.
It was the first year I attempted (and failed) miserably at identifying as an entrepreneur and trying to build my first business. We hadn’t even gotten a product to market yet before the business (and the relationships included) disintegrated. I am still recovering from that experience and grieving for those relationships, I think.
I wrestled so much with leaning into the fear and the idea of saying “I am building a company” only to then lean out and admit “I failed.”
Learning fear to understand courage.
I’ve come to recognize that much of this year was me acknowledging my own fears.
I was afraid of stepping away from a competitive position in finance that, as an Asian American, was instilled in me as an identity I should own.
I was afraid of owning up to starting up a company.
Now that the first company has failed, I am afraid of stepping into this new role as a writer and attempt building something for a second time.
More importantly, I am so very afraid that my ambition exceeds my talent (skip to 1:32). That I will never be the person I dream of in my head, or accumulate the skills I need to create something of impact, and create it well.
(I’m aware this is all very egocentric, apologies. My ego is a little fragile at the moment.)
When there are obstacles to the progress I crave, I’ve come to realize so much of it boils down to my own self holding me back. And, I’ve slowly realized, what often holds me back is simply that I am afraid.
Of what, really, is the real question. Fear originally existed to ensure our survival in a scarce and unsafe environment full of predators and fierce external forces. But we now live in a primarily resource-rich environment with very effective shelters against lions, tigers and bears (oh my). Oh, and the weather.
I am grateful that the fear of true survival is becoming more of a bygone concern. When you think about it from a macro perspective, we are closer and closer to having enough resources for everyone on this planet thanks to trickle down economics.
Theoretically, this means I should have relatively few fears. After all, survival is no longer really a concern. But it seems a lot of my self-sabotage exists because my internal state is fearful, trying to protect me from the illusion of harm it has created for me that inhibits me from the goals I have:
I want to make.
I want to write.
I want to add value.
And I want to improve.
2020 in Review, and Lessons Learned
In corporate reporting, everything can be spun into a positive note. Deciding to actively steering away from the “corporate” version of my annual review felt much more honest and visceral. Liberating, even. A little emo if we’re being honest, but liberating at the same time.
But this is in no way productive, and quite frankly, might be better suited for a personal journal entry. As such, time to dust myself off and take the rest of my time to assess my progress for the past year (inspired by Steph Smith).
Below is my cumulative 2020 report, with all of my quarterly targets, red indicates goals missed:
I’ve done tracking for many years now. But this has been my first attempt at a comprehensive overview of my year, and as such, I’ve learned a few things:
1. It’s important to picking the right goals and metrics.
I am still learning the sweet spot between what are flow state goals, and which goals are overly challenging to the point of discouragement when I can’t meet them. For example, the focus on my reading goal eventually began to consume my priorities of making and writing and eventually, I lost motivation to even keep trying. (Reference Q4 reading results.)
My metrics and key goals for fitness have also changed throughout the year, which doesn’t accurately captured progress in these reports and will need better delineation for future iterations. Thus, it’s harder to decipher if I’ve truly improved in my fitness goals.
2. The power of writing and reflecting.
Reflecting and looking back on this data consistently helped astronomically in terms of mental health. Having concrete numbers to look at to see how I am progressing (and often, when I am making positive effort through numbers even when I feel otherwise) helped me maintain motivation and consistency.
Separately, deciding to write publicly has probably been one of the biggest shifts in my life that started at the end of Q3. This has led to an increased effort in reflecting, finding opportunities, and building better connections.
3. The need to prioritize.
As my dashboard continues to evolve, I’m beginning to recognize the need to simplify and prioritize. For example, there are certain items that can be separated into a project basis like business milestones, versus things that need to be actively maintained over time, like relationships and health.
Identifying and planning these intentionally for the new year will help me optimize for each category in a way that having recurring maintenance across the board prevented me from devoting the time and attention required for each section.
I’d love to better focus on seasonal goals, for example — if there is one aspect that I’d like to dedicate focus to per quarter.
💎 Milestones achieved, or honorable mentions:
- 📚 Read 33 books (Goal: 30)
- 💼 Incorporated my own business
- 🏃♀️ Mastered splits, side crow, and improved my regular crow
- 🌱 Established a consistent eating and fitness routine (subsequently deprioritized in Q4)
- 🎤 Presented at my first workshop
- 🐕 Rescued the new love of my life, Juno
- ✍🏻 Started writing on yinahuang.com
Looking forward into 2021
Given 2020 and its impact on us all, I recognize the importance of celebrating the wins in a year full of losses. I recognize that even with 2020, there have been areas I am extremely proud of, despite the setbacks and the feeling of never having done enough.
I think this was part of my bigger struggle today while writing this. I like to think of myself as grateful and positive, but for some reason I’m struggling really, really hard to find the positivity for this year as a whole.
Perhaps today is an off day. I’ll have to try again tomorrow.
Now that I’ve looked back, I look forward to designing my 2021 actionable goals and document them in a new post in the new year.