What went well, what didn't go so well, and what I've learned in 2022
January 4, 2023
Every year, I publish an annual review to reflect on my progress. You can read some of my past reviews here (2019, 2020, and 2021).
This letter of review is broken down into three parts:
It's a summary of the full annual review I keep private because that is more of a messy draft. If you're interested, you can learn more about my annual review process in one of my articles.
Now, let's dive into my 2022 review.
Early this year, I enrolled in Optimize Coach (it's now called Heroic Coach). It's a full-year online program that helps people become the best version of themselves. Some people take it as a self-improvement course, and some want to get certified as a coach.
It's one of the best programs I've invested in because it touches almost every area of my life. Not only does it cover big ideas and topics like Stoicism, productivity, nutrition, and more, but it also provides worksheets and tools that help me implement some of these powerful ideas.
The program takes a lot of commitment, and I'm far from meeting the high standard it helps me set yet. But like what's taught in the program, becoming the best version of yourself is life work. We don't do it once and call it a day. Instead, it requires us to commit and recommit to it from moment to moment—every single day.
The second highlight was that we (my wife and I) got a Labrador puppy in April 2022. Caring for a puppy was a lot of work, especially as first-time pet parents. But we've learned a lot since then with the help of friends and dog training videos on YouTube.
Getting a puppy wasn't a rational decision financially and time-wise. It was an emotional one. I spent so much time, attention, and money on the puppy in the past few months. But in return, I got to connect with other dog owners at a deeper level and develop new healthy routines.
It's easy for adults to convert everything we do into a transactional one. But a simple trick is to ask yourself this question: "What would my child gain from this?"
I envision my child having a companion that makes them happy, developing better routines taking care of a dog, and learning how to express love to other living things outside of him or herself. And I will willingly pay to have the experiences for them anytime. And then, I would ask, "why wouldn't I want the same for myself?"
I started the year with the goal of losing fat (just like last year). But instead of doing it myself, I joined an online program by Kinobody. In short, the strategy focuses on building strength and maintaining a slight calorie deficit (around 400kcal) daily through intermittent fasting.
I got from 22% body fat in January to 14% in July. I was pleased and proud because 14% body fat was the leanest I ever got in my entire life.
My fat loss progress stagnated for two months after that, and I started to lose strength. So I switched from calorie deficit to calorie surplus to rebuild strength and muscle mass. It means I will regain some of the fat I lose, but I'm okay with it because I now know how to cut it off once I get to the strength level I want.
I've thought about starting a podcast for a long time. It was the S.W.I.P.E.S newsletter by Neville Medhora that inspired me to create one in July 2022. The plan was to record a five to ten minutes episode every week that will also become my weekly newsletter (with a few curated content in the email).
Since then, I've published 25 podcast episodes ranging from four to ten minutes in length. Based on Transistor, I got 677 downloads in 2022. I'm okay with the downloads being low at this time because the goal was to get consistent with publishing and improve my podcast quality over time.
My wife and I started a DTC brand in 2021 with two partners. We didn't do much in the first half of 2022. By mid-Q3, we decided to quit the lackluster attitude and start doing something with the business.
The first problem was the lack of traffic to our store, so we started investing heavily in Facebook ads. At the same time, we made some tweaks to our website and emails to increase our conversion rates. We also introduced standardized processes for running sales campaigns in Q4 2022.
Instead of measuring Wolo Yoga's performance by the year or quarter, we came up with monthly targets and a few action items to hit them. It shortens the feedback loop and lets us move quickly instead of tinkering with projects that don't move the needle. By the end of 2022, we were 30% ahead of our adjusted annual revenue goal.
The main channel was paid advertising and the key driving events were sales campaigns. That said, we will be doubling down on these two in 2023 while exploring new channels, further optimizing for conversions, and building up the brand.
The final highlight was AppSumo's winter retreat at Costa Rice. The last time I met the team was at the end of 2019, right before Covid hit the world. I haven't traveled oversea since then. So I was very grateful and excited to meet everyone in person this time.
To my surprise, many colleagues were meeting each other in person for the first time. Excerpt for the time zone, we all share the same experience of working at our home office with our pajamas on (sometimes). It's exciting to learn that remote work is the norm nowadays—at least at AppSumo and for people in the tech industry.
Most importantly, the People team at AppSumo has done great work with all the activities and logistics well-planned for everyone on the team.
Ruling out the market crash in March 2020, this was my first real-life experience of a major market downturn. Since I've moved a significant amount of my portfolio out from index funds into individual stocks (tech stocks in particular), my portfolio has taken a bigger hit than the 20% drop in the S&P 500.
However, everything is still good because I won't sell any of my stocks. But it makes me rethink my strategy given what I learned this year about how unreasonable and unpredictable the market, businesses, and people are (think USA v.s. China, Russian invasion of Ukraine, Elon Musk buying Twitter, FTX collapse, and more).
Besides the recession, I'm in the process of buying a house. It seems like a bad time, but I'm doing it because rent is rising and construction materials are getting more expensive (a.k.a, homes are getting more expensive in the next two to three years in Malaysia). The costs tap into my savings for emergency and runway. It doesn't bother me as much, but it temporarily puts my finances in a less stable spot.
Lastly, I signed up for a year-long financial planning and advisory service in 2022. The experience could have been better. The service wasn't as personalized as I had hoped, and I felt like I was being forced into a thinking/planning model that didn't work for my wife and me.
AppSumo has always been one of the key highlights in my past reviews. In 2022, however, my work at AppSumo was good but not great. In short, I didn't feel like I was living up to my potential and contributing my best to the company.
There are many reasons why I felt that way. The team is getting bigger, and I stopped working with some people I used to work with. Besides, working on SEO means the feedback loop between what we do and what we get will be longer than other projects—which I need to get used to.
While I enjoyed working remotely, working alone in Malaysia without in-person meetings in the past three years only widened the disconnection. That was why I was super excited and grateful for the Costa Rica retreat where I met everyone on the team.
Going into 2023, I believe my biggest opportunity at AppSumo is to truly own a few projects, proactively communicate with people I work with, and sharpen both my technical and leadership skills.
I read only seven books and didn't publish any book notes this year. Instead, I spent so much time on YouTube, Instagram, and Netflix this year, especially in Q4.
Short-form videos are the norm nowadays. They are short, entertaining, and could be educational sometimes. While I'm not against it, I don't think I consume short videos in a productive way. Besides, I would prefer to be the one who produces them than the one who consumes too many of them.
The market moves in cycles. It goes up and down. Relationships also move in cycles. People get close and then get further away. Our lives move in cycles too. There are good times and then bad ones.
I see some of these cycles at play whenever I reread these letters of review. There were times when I felt like I was on top of the world and times when I couldn't stop doubting myself. There were times great things happened effortlessly and times things seemed to move backward regardless of how hard I tried.
In many cases, the cycles are beyond our control. But being aware of them helps us get prepared and stay still. During great times, it helps us capture the tailwind but not get too ahead of ourselves. During bad times, it allows us to remain calm and move forward without losing hope.
The end is the vision you have for different areas of your life. Who do you want to be? What will you be doing? Who are you spending time with? What matters most to you? It's important to figure them out and be obsessed with the end, so you don't lose yourself along the way.
Once you figure out the end, you can focus on the now. Because now is all that matters. You say no to things because they don't fit into your vision of the end and don't make you a better person now.
The best way to keep yourself at a high standard is to have and commit to a system. Take work as an example. Whenever you feel unmotivated and distracted, consider it as the time to double down on your productivity system.
Be it tracking your goals, reviewing the day and the week, prioritizing the essential tasks, or clocking in at least one deep work session. Without them, things fall apart faster—and you only get even more unmotivated and distracted at the end of the day.
The same principle applies to all areas of life. The system is made up of the fundamentals or principles of the area or standard you want to maintain and improve. The worse we feel and the more chaotic things get, the more committed we need to be to our systems. With that, we're spiraling upward instead of downward.
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