Hey there, Dean here. I run content and SEO at AppSumo. Here, I write and share about productivity, leadership, money, psychology, marketing, and more.
Every year, I publish a progress review and integrity report to track my annual progress.
This year is no exception. I would like to start with a big thank you! I appreciate the fact that you’ve spent your valuable attention and time on my work over the last 12 months. Now let’s dive into a quick overview of what went well and what went wrong for me in 2018.
Here is a list of things that went well in 2018:
Here is a list of things that didn’t go as well as I wanted them to in 2018:
I categorize my life into different areas and set goals for each one of them. Here, I split my life into four core areas — business and career, personal development, health and fitness, and relationships — and rate them on a scale from 1 to 10.
I’d undoubtedly say that having the opportunity to work at Sumo was my best career experience. It’s now been one and a half years since I started working with the team but I’m still super grateful and excited about it. I’ve had a great time working with everyone in the Sumo team and learned so much in the process. The only trade-off is that I had less time and attention for my personal blog. But putting both of them in a long-term perspective, working at Sumo will always be an irreplaceable part of my career and work.
I didn’t do as well as I wished in growing my blog. As mentioned above, I got lost in my writing process and direction of the blog. As a result, I only published 18 new articles in 2018 and re-launched an updated product without creating any new ones. I also shut down my Patreon account in the process because it didn’t work out for me and I decided to narrow it down to fewer products and marketing channels. You can read more about this here.
The best habit I have ever developed is reading. Even though I read much slower this year, I continue to read every day mainly due to having established my identity as a reader. I just felt terrible for not reading even for one day. The main difference with reading this year is that I spent more time reflecting on what I learned and trying to implement and experiment with the insights immediately.
Other than reading, I started daily journaling at the end of March. I began writing down my thoughts every morning because I kept being distracted by them. With time, this Monkey Thoughts journal slowly transformed itself into what is known as the morning pages — where I spend 30 minutes or more writing about an idea I have in mind every morning. It helps me to flex my writing muscle and get my creativity flowing before starting my day.
I’ve learned a lot more about Stoicism early this year, from the book Ego is the Enemy by Ryan Holiday. The concepts are fascinating yet practical. I started to practice some of the learning and dive deeper into developing myself as a Stoic. You’ll likely see me writing about Stoicism in future newsletters.
I believe in continual improvement and I don’t see myself stopping my learning process anytime soon. I bought two online courses this year for further education and development in areas that I care a lot about: Mental Mastery by Ramit Sethi and Write More Everyday beta by Primoz Bozic. I’m sure you can quickly grasp what these courses are about by their names.
Frankly, it was hard to place my health and fitness at the top of my priorities — like how it used to be. A few years back, I used to plan my day around my diet and workout routine but now I generally plan my day around work. The good news is that I understand the importance of maintaining great health. Instead of squeezing it into my already packed routine, I developed simple rules and systems to make sustainable progress in this area.
By moving into a new apartment this year, I gained more control over my environment. It allowed me to better plan and adjust my diet and workout routines. I’d say it is the most significant contributing factor to me losing 6% of body fat in 60 days.
I tested ketogenic diet mid of the year but stopped because it required too much attention. Now, I’m switching back to my regular 16/8 intermittent fasting diet routine. I quit my strength training routine as mentioned at the end of last year. Instead, I opted for the Freeletics program for six months with the goal of cutting fasts and then GMB movement training to improve my general health and fitness.
For a lot of people, being able to work remotely means more time to travel around and freedom to spend time with people who matter to them. It’s no different for me, I haven’t started traveling as frequently as I wanted to, but I got the opportunity to spend more time with my parents and friends. This alone has brought us closer to each other.
Professionally, I got to work at Sumo HQ for two weeks and met the team in person. Besides the visit, my relationships with the team also grew a lot stronger as we worked together more closely even when I was working remotely. I’m very interested in learning and testing — and possibly writing — more about how to be a high performer even when working remotely.
The most exciting news is that I’ve proposed to my girlfriend this September and she said “yes!” We’ve scheduled our wedding for October of next year, so it’s going to be a busy year in 2019 preparing for it!
To make this article at least somewhat useful to you and the future me, I summed up three of the biggest lessons I learned in 2018. They are by no means all the lessons and insights I gained this year but rather the more high-level realizations I’ve stumbled across.
I’ve stressed self-awareness a great deal in many of my articles because, with time, I realized the critical role it plays in everything we do. As I observe and study more people, I find that everyone — including people who are successful in your standard — have their own struggles to overcome and fears to conquer.
The difference between someone who makes it out on the better side and someone who is stuck is whether or not they’re being self-aware. And trust me, there is no easy way to learn more about yourself and understand your strengths and weaknesses. The process is soul-crushing and energy-sucking but it’s a process everyone needs to go through if you want to grow beyond your current self.
In retrospect, I found that a lot of what I experienced in 2018 was teaching me one single lesson. The book I read, the people I met, the courses I’ve taken, the work I’ve done or didn’t do — all of them were showing me the importance of having a professional attitude.
I knew that strategic decision-making was critical and I knew that consistency was the key to great work. But what makes strategic decision-making and consistency possible is the professional attitude we have toward what we do.
Adopting this attitude will also allow you and me to have the courage to do the right — but often harder — things. At the end of the day, the work I create is the only thing that matters to the people who hired me, to my readers and students, and to you. And the only way to create work that truly matters is to be a professional.
One of the best books I’ve read this year is Principles by Ray Dalio. In the book, he laid out the work and life principles that made him one of the most successful persons in the world. But just like Ray Dalio had mentioned in the book, these principles are best used as a reference instead of absolute law because every single one of us is different.
Like many others who have read the book, I started making my own set of principles. Having a set of principles helps me make more accurate decisions faster. However, these principles are a set of living-and-breathing rules that are meant to be tested and adjusted. The key is to be radically transparent and opened minded in seeking the ultimate truth of work and life. I encourage you to develop a set of principles for yourself, but first, go pick up Principles and read it.
At a glance, 2018 has been an excellent year for me. I didn’t accomplish everything I was aiming for, but I believe there are reasons and lessons to be learned when we fall short. One of them is to realize how fortunate I’m to have the people around me who contribute to my growth. Here are a few people I want to show my gratitude to in 2018:
Ku Hui Wen. Used to be my girlfriend and soon to be my wife. I’m super lucky to have her by my side. I know it’s not easy to be with a somewhat weirdo like me. Thank you, my love!
Noah Kagan. Thanks to Noah, I got the opportunity to work at Sumo and thanks to Noah again, I got the chance to visit Austin, Texas for the first time. I learned so much from both the very short time spent with Noah and the two short weeks spent with the entire Sumo team. I’m looking forward to revisiting Sumo soon.
Chad Boyda and Matt Levene. Chad is the CEO and Matt is the marketing lead of Sumo. I enjoyed every minute working with them and am fascinated by their commitment to their roles. I would love to spend more time with both Chad and Matt in the future because I’m curious to learn how they think and make decisions.
Ramit Sethi. Mental Mastery by Ramit Sethi helps me level up my mental game. Besides, I read a lot more of Ramit’s free content this year and it has helped me to optimize my personal financial system further.
Primoz Bozic. I enrolled in Write More Everyday beta program by Primoz Bozic end of this year. The program has helped me to write more by ironing out a better writing process and integrating a daily writing routine into my life.
Authors of the books I read. Reading is my #1 medium of learning. As a writer myself, I know how much work is required to create a great book. Here, I want to thank the authors of the books I’ve read in 2018.
You. Yes, you who have subscribed to my newsletters, replied to my emails, and read my articles. Thank you!
That’s it for this review and report. Before you go, I have an announcement to make, I’m going to take a month off this December from writing (actually, I’ll still be writing, just not these newsletters).
As a society, we don’t stress the importance of taking time off enough. I’m going to use this month to reset and recharge. Besides, I’m also going to start thinking and planning strategically for the year to come. See you in 2019.