2013, The Tough Questions And The Calling
“You know, those big audacious goals that you have shared years ago. You should consider executing on it,” said Renyi in a friendly and matter-of-fact tone. I let out a nervous chuckle — deep down I know there a small tingle of unease, this comment has hit on a nerve. In a quiet coffee house we’re in where everyone seems to mind their own businesses, we were having our mastermind group session where our pact is committed to check-in on everyone else’s progress in life and making sure that we all achieve our own personal goals and dreams.
Looking back, 2013 may prove to be one of those transitional years that I have experienced so far. I think it’s a year that I’m spending most of my time reaping and enjoying the fruits that I’ve sowed, and am grateful for everything that has come my way so far. At the same time, there’s always that lingering thought in me that constantly questions “What’s coming up next?”, “Is there something bigger that I should be doing?”, “Am I living to the best of my potential?”, etc.
I’m probably getting a bit ahead of myself here — as I’d need to fill in a lot of gaps of the highlights of my life in 2013 before I go through my introspection piece. Well, even I need some context of what has happened before I can do my yearly review proper.
Highlights for 2013 (TL;DR Version)
- Moved in with my sister
- Participated in World Domination Summit and the first time traveling solo
- One year of building an API server for Mindvalley mobile apps
- Did two technical talks in Webcamp KL: REST API 101 and The Basics of Scaling Your Web App
- Started to get into the boardgaming hobby and expanded my social circle
- Participated in BoardGameCafe.net Retreat
- Being in a romantic relationship, albiet very short-lived (again)
- The realization of being in my 30’s means getting more involved in other people’s lives
- Regrouped a brand-new mastermind group
Key Events of 2013 — The Longer Stories
World Domination Summit 2013
Let’s start with the biggest event in my life — that I travel across the globe alone to the United States of America. Travelling alone is one of the most exciting things I’ve done in my life and one that scares me a lot as I planned and executed it. Before the trip, all the trips and holidays that I have been to had always been organized and taken care off by other people, mostly by my family members or friends, depending whom I travelling with. At first I’m nervous as I’m planning this trip, the whole process of obtaining my US visa to making bookings for my trip. And I’m glad that Yongjue, who happens to go to WDS as well, have helped me a lot and gave me the reassurance that everything’s going to be OK.
And the moment I land at Portland, Oregon, I’m taken in with the place almost instantly. The people are warm, friendly, down-to-earth and helpful, the city is laid back while brimming with a very artistic vibe, very convenient to get around… there’s so many things to like about the place.
And World Domination Summit? I’m enjoy every minute of it and getting to mingle around with like-minded people, I feel right at home with my own tribe of like-minded people. The talks are inspiring, enjoying all the outdoor activities and meetups with fellow participants. It’s all about the people :). Not only that, I finally get to meet Pamela Slim of the Escape from Cubicle Nation fame and it’s unbelievable of the number of times I bumped into her and being able to chat up like a long-lost friend.
At the same time, well, as a novice traveller, I have no clue what to do when I’m in a foreign place, so most of my time is kind of spent exploring the city and there are times when I feel as if the trip fell a bit flat (only have myself to blame here :p). And I have yet to follow up with everyone that I have met there. But having this very first experience is crucial in learning more about myself on what I like in life. And looking forward to be there again next year.
The New-Found Boardgaming Hobby
It all started with me stumbling upon Shut Up and Sit Down. I can’t remember how I found out about them (Penny Arcade, perhaps?), but I still remembered being entertained by their British humour that I ended up watching all their episodes. I have followed them for two months and decided to buy my first game, I stumbled upon The Dice Tower as I’m researching for more reviews to supplement my decision to buy my very first card game (Dominion), I was slowly being ushered into this new hobby of mine.
Buying games is the easier part of the equation, finding people to enjoy the same hobby as I do is the real challenge. After all, unlike computer games that you can either play solo or rely on the Internet multi-player function, you need to meet fellow players in person to get the excitement of playing the game. I was struggling to get games out to the table until in March, Meeples Cafe hosts International Tabletop Day. That’s when I met Adrian Chew and his friends — and after that meetup, I ended up playing a few more games with Adrian after the meetup and get to know him as a friend. The chain of events snowballs into us forming our own regular gaming group on the day when we are doing a farewell dinner for Adrian as he flew off to Australia and to pursue a better career opportunity there.
And I couldn’t be more grateful of what had happened that one friendly connector would bring several loose group of friends and formed a bigger group who shares the same enjoyment in board games. We have been meeting almost on a weekly basis these days during most months and am sure it’ll last for many months to come as the camaraderie become stronger. And am glad that by participating in other meetups, I get to meet with other groups and the cross pollination of different groups is a inviting change. So right now, I’m already part of three different gaming groups and am glad that there’s a social activity that I enjoyed partaking in.
As an aside, it’s funny to think that almost all my social circle and friends of mine hinges on one linchpin within that group. Well apart from the friends I made through hosting the mastermind groups — but that hinged on the credibility and trust I have built up over at Webcamp KL. So… probably that’s just the most effective way that I make friends through? Part of me sort of wished that I’m more socially assertive and make friends on my own.
Community Involvement and The Major Shifts
After talking about being part of three board gaming groups, which in by itself small communities that I’m a part of, what about the existing ones that I’m apart of? Well, as it turns out, there are significant changes that happened in the communities that I’m a part of. Some of them have changed focus, a few made the decision to continue operating small, some of them go on hiatus. The only two groups that I’m active right now would be Python User Group Malaysia, which is held once every two months or so, and the other being Webcamp KL, which will be becoming Lvl.Up KL.
Lvl.Up KL marks quite a change in direction in focus while maintaining the schedule and format of Webcamp KL. As far as I can disclose and with the caveat being that everything is subject to change based on how Wu Han wants to run it, Lvl.Up KL will be more focused and go into deeper dives on specific topics or themes — with the aim to level up the skills and knowledge in KL, be it technical, creative or entrepreneurial. So instead of a buffet of various topics in Webcamp KL, Lvl.Up KL would be delivering value by bringing in experts and participants who are interested in that theme/topic/interest to mingle with each other. Hopefully, gone were the days when you can skip one Webcamp KL, or having to mingle in an ambiguous and diverse crowd, and you would feel at home instantly knowing that you are in a crowd of fellow peers. Am excited with the change and I’ve been helping out for the past three years and my resolve of fostering a community that people would feel at home will never change :).
As for the mastermind groups that I’m apart of, there are some group fatigue going on — so I ended up culling the existing groups and started a brand new one by bringing in the active members from both groups. And based on the lessons, am starting to implement more structure into how things are being organized — from the meeting format (am using the WIFLE, aka What I Feel Like Expressing, format) to rules in terms of schedules and attendance. Am looking forward to this new revamp as I observed that my life is vastly enriched when I’m having these sessions with a close group of friends and the constructive feedback have accelerated my progress in life. Hopefully with this habit picking up again, I’ll be ready for the challenges ahead.
Come to think about it, I’m starting to transition from joining more targeted groups (e.g. special interest groups in tech and business) to enjoying a group with diverse backgrounds (notably my board gaming group and mastermind groups). There’s something about diversity that appeals to me as it broaden up my social circle and getting some unique and interesting viewpoints that I have not thought about.
Being In-and-Out of Love
So here we are, leaving the juiciest part last. This is the part where I’d relapse to who I’m back into my college and university days. Well, after all I don’t even have a good track record in dating and romance in general. So bear with me (or wag your tails if you are the gossipy types).
Ever since last year, I’m indeed getting more proactive in dating people — it is quite a challenge for an introvert who lacks experience in handling social situations who loses out in the looks department. In the end, it is a combination between a numbers game, slowly piecing together the puzzle of what I want in a romantic partner (as opposed to my own logical ideals of what he should be), learing the wooing skills and dealing with the self-esteem issues. Waltzing around from date to date, stepping onto toes and handling differences in expectations along the way.
That said, I did end up being attached with someone… albeit for a short period of two months. The short glossing-over-the-details version of it is that we started off with a lot of passion, but as time passes by, hardships in our careers have slowly separate us until we reached a point where we would never talk at all. As much as I’m lucky and grateful to have met this ex of mine, I’m also starting to realize my own needs and expectations when I’m in a relationship — that I needed a lot more love and attention than I would have expected myself to need. Looking back, I think that why I hung on with the person who had a crush on me last year that I had rejected him multiple times — that deep down in my subconscious, he fulfilled my emotional needs and showered me with loving attention that I crave for.
Coming back to my current ex, well, I broke up with him with a text saying that I can’t carry on. The last straw being that it’s his second time that he stopped messaging me for two weeks and the heartache of not able to see or talk to him for that period of time is too much for me to bear without a strong emotional foundation being built before hand. That said, this is just my side of the story — I wished I would know the actual reason why he closed me off and am pretty sure he has valid reason. But… it’s an answer that I’d never get for now.
At this point in time, there’s no turning back now — I found out that I’m just human and have a need for companionship in life, therefore the search has to go on. At the time of writing, I’m surprised that I have developed a strong infatuation towards someone, but am not sure how it’ll pan out and it’s testing my patience at times. Well, as far as 2014 goes, anything could happen — I may turn out to be lucky or having to hunt all over again. Am just hoping for the best and that I won’t be moping about my singlehood in my next yearly review.
The Struggle, The Question and The Uncertain
Of course, 2013 is not all a bed of roses — but surprisingly it’s not about my own woes and struggles, but rather the pains, trials and tribulations of the close friends. Seeing close friends having cope with serious illness, an ailing family member or going through emotional hard times redefines what does it mean to be being an adult and the responsibilities of taking care of myself but also the life and well-being of others around me. Am counting my blessings that life has been good for me — I haven’t put through some serious life hardships and my family has nothing less of being awesome. But putting myself in the shoes of the hardships that the people around me go through keep me grounded and think about life, at the same time learning how to deal, comfort, advise and support these people in need. And knowing that life is uncertain and I may be faced with situations where I have to put the need of others ahead of mine and making personal sacrifices. That sooner or later, I’ll be dependent upon by others.
I’m also going through a phase where I’m shrouded by uncertainty — mainly on my career and the general direction I’m going through in life. As of right now, I’d say that I’m content with the life that I’ve built for myself up until this point. And it is because of that, that I’m finding myself yearning again — that I’m starting to noticing the voids, feeling that there are still missing pieces in my life. That I’m still not living the life that I truly wanted and not reaching the full potential that I can be.
As I am typing this, it does feel like the post harkens back to my earlier self a decade before, one who have a future ahead of him and yet feeling the fears and doubts of an uncertain path. Did I find myself relapsing into a cycle? I wonder what would successful me a decade after would have advise now me? It’s something certain that I’d have to explore as I move ahead this year.
Right now the only big adventure item on my list is the extended US trip that I’m embarking this year. This time round I’ll be attending not only World Domination Summit again but also Dice Tower Convention. I’m deciding whether would I want to visit San Francisco while I’m there; yet this unplanned third leg of the trip does pushes my comfort zone a little bit too far than I can chew. I’m planning to think it through when I’m feeling less stressed out about it.
I do have another travel plan that I have in mind right now, that is to travel to Taiwan and Japan. Right now am aiming it to happen in spring 2015, but am totally up for changes. Moving forward, I’m trying to set myself up so that I’ll be able to travel more around the world from now onwards — and this whole travel resolution both scares and excite me at the same time and would call that as my big hairy audacious goal in my own life.
On the career side of things, right now I’m also considering the crazy idea of going on a year-long sabbatical. It’s been close to eight years I have been in the workforce and I think I may be hitting my own limits and wearing myself out. This is the second scariest thought that I’m entertaining at the moment. My thoughts about it right now is that it’s not going to be me just crashing and doing practically nothing (which I’m more prone of doing so), but rather to delve into the passion projects that I’ve put on hold using my current coding skills. I have two projects that I have in mind at the moment: one is to build a market unproven software-as-a-service that helps in community building for meetup organizers; and secondly to start a tutorial video or blog series that gives you the full monty of the whole process of developing a web app from scratch, which may cover not only the development aspects of it but also the other skills such as setting up tools for Internet marketing (despite my zero knowledge on marketing skills).
Just the thought of these two big passion projects are weighing down on me and I know there’s a ton of adjustments that need to be made. The main “perceived hassle” is to readjust my budget, rewire all my spending habits and submitting a bunch of forms to cancel all the charity deductions that I have been making all this while. That and crossing my psychological barriers, toughening up and sprint way past my comfort zone.
… All this is scaring the shit out of me and I don’t know how am I supposed to pull it off. Which we now come to the final section…
Wrapping Up: Three Guiding Themes for 2014
I’m right now facing my own Walter Mitty moment — and this is the hardest yearly review I have written to date, as you would be able to tell from the section above. Yet with such Goliath in front of me and the trembles that shivers down my every bone, marrow and down to my nerve endings, I still maintain the same optimism as I have carried myself up to this day.
It’s going to be the most ambitious resolution to date which may either bring light to my cowardice in years to come, forever tormented in ridicule of a weak man not following through his resolves; or I may rise up to the challenge and set foot on uncharted waters, venturing and brave through the vast unknowns. It is, to me, one of the greatest crossroads that I have to face in life. The outcome of what path I will choose will be reflected in my yearly review in twelve months’ time.
With that in mind, in the hopes of keeping my spirits high and setting up a benchmark for myself, I hereby declare the three guiding themes to my venture into the new year.
- Breaking free (carried forward from 2013’s theme)
May 2014 be a great year ahead for me.