2019 Letter of Review

What went well, what wrong wrong, and what I learned in 2019

I started writing a letter for the year in review since 2015. It was a newsletter I sent to over 10 readers on this list, who were my friends in real life. You can read my review for the year 2015, 2016, 2017, and 2018 here.I'm doing this differently this year. Instead of reviewing the year in early December (sometimes even mid-November) and start writing the letter, I let things and thoughts sit through the year, and write this in January.It felt different to me as I was reviewing my 2019 till the very last day compared to how it was done back then.

Disney wonder cruise

Cover image: the Disney Wonder cruise at Cozumel, Mexico.

What Went Well

2019 was an excellent year for me. It could possibly be the best year by far. Tons of growth, opportunities, learning, memories, and everything in between that have made life exciting and meaningful.

  • Joined Toastmaster Club. One of the things I wanted to improve in 2019 was public speaking and joining a Toastmaster Club was one of the best decisions. I learned so much about speaking and got to build new, meaningful relationships with members there.
  • Published 26 blog posts on this blog. I got back to one blog post per week schedule but fell off track since September 2019.
  • Read 8 books 12 books (but haven't shared any reading notes).
  • Spoke in front of a group of managers at Flex. This was my first corporate speech, and the response was better than I could ever ask. I didn't get paid for it, but it was the first step of something big.
  • Got invited to a webinar hosted by KC Lau. KC Lau is one of the top bloggers in Malaysia. It was my pleasure and honor to be on his webinar series and share more about productivity.
  • Got promoted at Sumo to lead the content team and run the blog.
  • Got married. Getting married and organize a wedding were tiring but exciting and fun at the same time. I'm grateful to have the best partner in life, and we get to do this together.
  • Visited Busan, Korea. It was a trip with my in-laws. My wife and I didn't plan for a honeymoon after our wedding, so we resolved by joining my in-laws for a family trip.
  • Visited Austin for the second time. I joined the Sumo team for Sumo retreat and spent three weeks working closely with everyone at Sumo HQ.
  • Experienced the first cruise in my entire life. Thanks to the Sumo retreat (and Rachel for organizing it), I got to hop on the Disney Wonder cruise with amazing people in the team.
  • Shot a handgun for the first time. I did this during my visit to Austin. Thanks to Nick Christensen for bringing me to the range and showing me how to handle a gun.
  • Saved and invested 30% and above of my income monthly.
  • Bought the first apartment for investment purposes.

What Went Wrong

Life isn't always sunshine and rainbow. Here are the two biggest setbacks and failures I had in 2019.

  • Not growing my blog. The goals in 2019 were to increase the number of subscribers and build it into a profit-generating business. Unfortunately, they didn't happen. The total numbers of subscribers stay the same, and the blog only generates revenue slightly short from breaking even.
  • Lack of consistency in health and fitness routine. I started 2019 strong with new workout routines but slowly fell off track as other priorities got in the way.

Progress Rating

I used to split this progress rating into four areas. But this year, I'm making it five by finally dividing career and business. They used to be the same thing as my career is my business, but it's no longer the case.Here, I rate each area on a scale from 1 to 10, and they reflect how well I did for that particular area in 2019.

Career 9/10

I see my day job as my career, and it has been a fulfilling one. I learned so much at Sumo in 2019 and fortunate enough to have the opportunities to prove my ability in content, marketing, management, and more in a team setting.The two most significant accomplishments are:

  1. I got promoted to run the Sumo blog. It basically means I'm responsible for the growth of the content department and the quality of the content we put out at Sumo.
  2. I helped launch FAM, a new product we spent months working on at Sumo. I was responsible for basically everything of the launch, from copy to emails to partnerships. With the help of everyone in the team, the launch brought in over 500 new active customers in two weeks.

Business 3/10

As my responsibilities grew at Sumo, I started to neglect this blog. Deep down, I wanted to build it into something significant because:

  • I'll always prefer entrepreneurship over a day job.
  • It as minimal downside and unlimited potential upside.
  • I get to make a bigger, more direct impact on people's lives in a more high-touch manner.

Unfortunately, I failed big time with this. I didn't write as consistently as I used to be, and I haven't been able to stick to my plans on creating products for you and everyone else here.I did make a few improvements for the blog, for example, the new, faster, more SEO-friendly web design. But overall, these small improvements didn't move the needle at all (they could be the distractions to actual work I need to get done).

Personal Development 7/10

I read fewer books in 2019. And I haven't summarized and published any of the reading notes. However, I don't see it as a failure. As I read more, I became very selective about what I read. I wanted to make sure I read good books at the same time, something I can implement to my work and life immediately.Out of everything I read, I found The Little Book of Stoicism transformed the most of my life. It introduces me to the Stoic philosophy at a deeper level (Thanks to Jonas for sending me the book all the way to Malaysia).I took two online courses this year:

  1. Property Method by KC Lau. A beginner-level program on real estate investing for Malaysians.
  2. Mastering ConvertKit by Brenan Dunn. An online course on email marketing for content creators (I'm still going through it and will actively implement it into both my day job and this blog).

I set a goal to learn a new language in 2019, but I did nothing about it — not even one single practice session. Nothing. Nada. It made me realized that learning a new language sounds cool as a goal but wasn't practical for me at this time.

Health and Fitness 5/10

I got back to lifting heavyweight in 2019 and has been making good progress. Here are my heaviest lifts for a 5x5 routine:

  • Squat 90kg/198lbs
  • Bench Press 60kg/132lbs
  • Deadlift 100kg/220lbs

Unfortunately, I haven't made it a non-negotiable in my daily life. As I got occupied by my day job and wedding planning, I started to fall off track from the training routine.As for my diet, it hasn't been the focus from the start. Instead, I came up with a simple set of diet rules and managed to stick to them 60% of the time. 60% is far from good so it'll be something to improve in 2020.

Relationships 9/10

I'm officially the husband to my ex-girlfriend, now wife. This alone contributes 7 out of the 10.Aside from my relationship with my wife, I'm most grateful for the new friends I get to know in my Toastmaster club. I get to meet professionals of all ages and all walks of life. Some of them profoundly changed my life:

  • Stephanie Tan. I always wanted to invest in real estate, but I have no idea how to do it right. Stephanie is a dentist and a real estate investor with decade-long experiences. The best part, she is always kind to share her knowledge on the topic and guide me along the way.
  • David Wong. I'm always curious about how to best optimize my finances. David is a financial planner and has helped me in optimizing my insurance coverage and other aspects of my finances.

Last but not least, it's always great to visit Austin and work with everyone at Sumo in person. I get to learn more about Texas and build better personal connections with people in the team, especially Noah Kagan, David Kelly (from SendFox and FAM), Nick Christensen (from AppSumo), and Mitchell Cohen (from OkDork).

Thank You

As always, I wanted to end this letter of review by saying thank you. Thank you for staying subscribed to my newsletter and reading the inconsistent work I've put out in 2019.I don't have a long list of life lessons for the year 2019. However, I do have a quote for myself in 2020, and I hope it's equally helpful and inspiring for you:

You know what you need to do. You know what you need to know to do them. Now, do them.


More recommended reads

Get my email delivered to your inbox once in a while

Three to five things I learned—that will help you work less, earn more, and live a better life. (Also get notified of new posts and masterclasses)

Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.

👆 Join 3,100+ leaders, creatives, and knowledge workers today.

Dean is a strong voice in the self-mastery space. His newsletter consistently delivers insightful ideas on how to become a better version of yourself and is the only newsletter that I always read.

Sebastian Kade

Head of product and engineering