12 lessons from 12 months of 2023

Hello friends,

How was 2023 for you? Hope it was full of joy, love, freedom, growth and empowerment.

For me, it was one full of change, transformation and growth.

There are many powerful, lifelong lessons I learned in 2023. While it was a bumpy year, I am feeling extremely grateful and blessed for how it has all unfolded.

To give a quick snapshot of my 2023:

  • I moved around without a home at least 10 times.
  • I struggled with finding that energy, purpose and excitement to get up every day to do my best work and that has really impacted me mentally.
  • My girlfriend and I adopted and rescued some incredibly beautiful kittens working with local non-profits in Bali, which we loved as our own. Unfortunately, some didn’t make it. We cried our hearts out. However, we found many a new and loving home.
  • I visited home in Sydney and Taiwan multiple times and found a lot of love and comfort in being with family after leaving for work over a year ago.
  • I moved in with some of my incredible friends and girlfriend and it’s an experience I’ll always treasure.
  • I went on my first road trip with my parents in 20 years, and have had tremendous breakthroughs in having an incredibly loving and understanding relationship with my mum and dad.
  • I kept boxing and training all around the world with nationals and regional champions from Indonesia, Vietnam, Singapore, Taiwan and more.
  • My little sister came and stayed with us for some road trips around Southeast Asia. It was such a beautiful experience seeing her and my close friends get on so well.
  • I started working on something new that excites me in life professionally.
  • Most importantly, I learnt that I have incredible family and friends who would travel across the country and continents to celebrate my birthday, do friends trip overseas to create beautiful core memories and long phone calls to support each other in our life goals.

Here’s a photo highlight of some of my favourite moments:

For all of us, life can get challenging sometimes. It’s important to not beat ourselves up.

When you want to get to Z, don’t beat yourself up when you see yourself at G. A, B, C, D, E, F, G: you are on the right path to get there! No one accomplishes anything ever overnight. Beating yourself up is going to make the journey longer and you’ll be tripping up on the pain. Enjoy it!

Love it! Find some joy, and laughter in it!

My top 12 lessons from 12 months of 2023

1. We are constantly worrying about the next part of our lives without realising that we’re right in the middle of what we used to look forward to.

Real life is only found in the present. If people tell you you should live this life preparing for the future, do not believe them. If you want to improve your life, don’t improve it generally. But improve every hour of this life and live it the best way you know how.

It is good to remind myself that if I can tell my 10-year-younger self that he gets to live my life, he will think he is living the dream and be so proud of me. I believe that is true for most people!

My 10-year-younger self

2. Life is neither suffering nor pleasure, but work we have to do. All our work, our efforts, and our forces should be directed at improving every hour of this life.

3. Enjoy our work sooner.

I wish that I had enjoyed my work sooner. A few months ago, I was talking to a retired pro boxer friend and they were telling me how they regretted not enjoying the game as much when they fought, that they hadn’t had more fun while they trained. It wasn’t a particularly unique insight. I’ve heard it in a million speeches and interviews, but I was in the middle of a particularly hard project at the time and not having much fun. I remember thinking: I’ve made it. I’m a pro at this really cool job…why am I not enjoying myself?

I’ve made a conscious effort since to consciously appreciate that I get to do this, to not let it turn into a grind or a slog. You don’t know if you’ll actually make it to the level of success you want. The company I was building could die–so why not have fun while you’re doing it? Why not make each day the win, the joy, the experience as opposed to the end result?

If you feel currently stuck and lack energy or joy in what you are working on, you can either change your environment, your work, the people you are with or your mindset.

Success, mastery, and sanity come from tying your well-being “to your own actions.” If you did your best, if you gave it your all, if you acted with your best judgment—you’ve won.

Enjoy it today. You get to do this. (In the most loving way), you could die in the next hour, next week, next month, next year. You are so lucky!

4. All really great things are happening in slow and inconspicuous ways.

The way to happiness, the way to real moral improvement, moves so invisibly, so inconspicuously that a person can see his success only after great, lengthy periods. If you are feeling stuck, and not seeing results in your life over the last few years, then it’s all normal. You are on the path to real moral improvements.

This is true for your work, money, your health, your relationship with your partner, family and friends, your passion, your skillset and most importantly the love you have in your heart and how aligned you are to it.

5. We can’t rush to get to the end. We all need a season of wintering before reaching the blossom of spring.

I learnt of a study where the scientist injected beautiful Redwood trees with Adrenaline to stop them from going into hibernation. These mighty Redwood that would normally live to hundreds of years, died within one year because they didn’t have a season of wintering.

I think about us humans, the way we expect ourselves to be in constant Spring, always blooming, always producing, always pushing for growth; we forgot to make important, slow moments with people with love, time with nature, health, rest.

To grow magnificent, we need times of wintering.

Distraction is the death of art. But boredom is the birthplace of creation.

6. Rejection has nothing to do with our worth, but it has everything to do with our incompatibility.

We are all the greatest, most intelligent and extremely beautiful in our own way. Remember that!

7. The importance of silence.

Galton Buddha, a wise teacher, often said that our words have great power. He believed that our words could be strong or weak, depending on how we use them. Speaking kindly and wisely can lead to success, but speaking unkindly or too much can cause problems. He shared a story to highlight the power of silence.

In one of the ancient Buddhist stories, a restless king, despite having wealth and fame, lacked inner peace. He sought help from a famous Buddhist monk, who suggested an experiment: the king would spend 15 days in silence at the monk's monastery. During this time, the king struggled with restlessness but gradually found peace and happiness in silence and nature. He learned that excessive talking and negative thoughts had been disturbing his mind. After 15 days of quiet reflection, the king felt renewed and understood the importance of silence.

The monk explained that silence is essential for self-discovery and inner peace. By talking less, people can avoid many problems, find peace in crowded places, and maintain inner calm even when speaking. The monk's teachings suggest that taking time for silence and reflection can lead to a happier, more peaceful life. He encourages everyone to spend time in solitude each day to experience these benefits.

When I heard this, it made me feel at peace and that I can definitely work on my use of words and silence. Word is the sharpest knife we have. It can help or it can deeply hurt others for a long time. When it comes to words, less is more and if you are using less words, use good ones over bad ones. Silent can bring you joy.

When you stay silent, it deepens your self-understanding and inner calm.

8. Drop the ego and listen to your customer more.

After years in building businesses, I know that the line between a great product that truly solves a customer’s need and the thousands that ended up in a startup graveyard is really fine.

One thing that really helps me is to drop my ego and listen to my customers/users more. I realise they often tell me what I need to do, it's just I’m too headstrong to listen.

I realise the best insights often come as passing remarks: “Oh I’d wish to have this…”

This is a reminder to myself that when I hear something like that, I sometimes need to drop my stupid idea and go do that if I want to truly help people and succeed.

Don't try to convince people you have a better solution than your competitors.

Convince them that you picked a better problem to solve.

Dharmesh Shah - CTO and founder at Hubspot

9. Conquer rage with humility, conquer evil with goodness, conquer greed with generosity, conquer lies with truth.

Reflecting back on my years alive in this world, I can confidently say that I have never once lost my temper and afterwards said, “I’m so glad I did that.”

Having peeled back the layers of onions within myself, I realise the source of these rages comes from the thought “I’m better and I would never do that.” It’s often a survival mechanism that gives me some sense of control and prevents me from falling deeper into depression.

The true antidote to that is to exercise my humility muscle. Everyone is doing the best they can with what they know. And let me be honest with myself, there are areas in life where I am no better.

Respond to evil with acts of kindness. Respond to your inner greed with acts of generosity. Defeat lies with truth.

10. The kinder and the more thoughtful a person is, the more kindness he can find in other people.

I’ve been in many situations where I don’t know what the best thing to do. I had to let people go at work. I had to reject relationships that doesn’t feel right. I had to say many “No”s in order to stay true to the few “Yes”es that I’ve dedicated to.

I feel like in these situations, being as kind and truthful as I possibly can are the best way forward.

Kindness enriches our life; with kindness mysterious things become clear, difficult things become easy, and dull things become cheerful.

11. Be someone who someone would want to be in a relationship with.

There are a lot of people in the world who want a great partner. Start by asking: “Why would someone want to be in a relationship or spend the rest of their life with you?”

Be someone who someone would want to be in a relationship with.

If you also want to be great at work, have many hobbies, and interests, enriching social life, and health (special nodes to all my fellow Aquarius out there), I used to pounder, how do I balance it all?

Hearing Joe Rogan share about his life, his work and his relationship, I feel affirmed: It does mean you just juggle it all. Hard work, relationship, kids, friends, family: if you want it all, then you need to have your shit together.

But it also means having the right person.

12. The key to a good team is feeling wanted and desired.

I feel this is really important and one of my core drivers to do world-class work.

That’s a wrap!

Well, that’s it from me today. Comment below, what’s something you’ve learned in 2023 that you’ll carry into 2024?

If you find at least one thing useful here today, share it on social media, Twitter, Linkedin or with friends. I appreciate it a lot.

Lots of love to you. Here’s to a year of catapulting growth, love, appreciation, and joy in our work and not taking anything for granted. Be in the moment. Let’s go!

Cheers and love,