2021 Year in Review

Summary of 2021

2021 Year in Review
Photo by ali syaaban on Unsplash
Photo by ali syaaban on Unsplash
In my 2020 review I mentioned that it was a year of learning and the courage to act. I did accomplished more than I had in the previous years combined, but it was only the beginning. In 2021, I continued to learn and explore so much more. The more I took action and learned, the higher my self-esteem and confidence grew. I built and created, and I met many people like me in various communities. I didn’t feel alone. It felt I could live up to my potential because if they could, so could I, while not dismissing the difficulties that come with it. Initially, I set a couple of goals for 2021 in two areas — 1) creation 2) personal growth & wellness. This is what I achieved, but I did a lot more than what is on this list.
What went well
  • Creation I wrote a lot. I wrote about 40 blog posts in total, thanks to the 30-day writing challenge I committed to.
  • Creation I also drew a lot. I drew nearly 30 pieces in total, thanks to Inktober.
  • Wellness I was pretty consistent with my weekly yoga practice, no matter how brief it was.
What didn’t go well
  • Personal growth I didn’t get to work on my second brain or PKM that much. On hold.
  • Wellness At one point I meditated for at least 10 minutes almost every night. I started doing more breathwork too, but I also put it on hold.
I’m not disappointed that I didn’t meet my initial goals because, in turn, I was able to achieve more than I had anticipated. If I had to sum up a few things I’m most proud of in 2021, the main highlights would be:
  • Built and launched my second no-code project: VSJO.
  • Started skateboarding and surfskating 🛹

Knowing what you want

Knowing what you want is not easy, even though it may sound like it is. It took me a lot of exploring and trying out things to know. I’m not there yet, but I believe I’m getting closer every year. 2021 started out with me joining On Deck’s first No Code fellowship. I met a lot of people and learned a lot from the community, so it was only natural for me to believe no code was going to be My Thing. But the more time I spent on Twitter, the more I was opened up to opportunities that I could see myself in, and the more I began to try new things. I also self-reflected more seriously, delving deeper into my feelings and emotions, needs and wants. I found myself prioritising things other than no-code building related, like writing and creating digital products on Notion. I did feel guilty for not devoting as much time as I’d have liked to improve my existing no-code projects but I felt more at home and saw more potential in writing and creating digital products instead, especially after making my first internet money from them. It’s true that earning your first dollar on your own (not as an employee) gives you hope that it is possible to break away from traditional employment. Not to say it’s easy or that I’m jumping in right away, but the potential is there and it’s real. I explored a lot in the first three quarters, then I focused on drawing, writing, and filming in October, November and December respectively. I wanted to try out the creator’s path and find my “niche” by experimenting in these areas. Drawing and writing went well. It didn’t for filming which took place in December. I fell sick (not Covid) for a week, then decided to spend the remaining month reflecting, planning, and spending time with my family. In the same month, interestingly, skateboarding taught me that the more effort I put into something, the more I would come to like it later on may not always be the case. If I really enjoy doing something, I do it for myself. I'm grateful for no-code for being the gateway to creating and making things, but I won’t be building much this year. Notion, writing, and reflecting have been constants for me so far, so I want to dedicate 2022 to doing more of them. Even though it seems obvious, it took me a while to realise this that only by taking action and doing something consistently for long enough will you be able to know what you want and don’t want. Only by acting will you be able to reinforce that decision. But how do you tell if something feels hard or if it feels wrong for you? I leave you with this.
... something being hard is different from something being wrong for you. When something is hard, you might be incredibly uncertain about the outcome, but you’re probably confident in the path, both the day-to-day process of it and the value and the joy. When it’s wrong, it’s out of whack with your basic needs. The problem is that most of us are not in touch with our needs.
TLDR; Explore a lot + try a lot + do them long enough + a dash of courage = Knowing what you want You definitely need some courage in the formula. A lot of times people don’t take action because they’re afraid. Reading doesn’t count. You can only learn by actually doing. If you don’t know where to start at first, just follow your curiosity.

Playing the long game

If you treat life like a video game, you’ll probably have more fun and play the game longer. I’m not suggesting to take life less seriously; I mean doing something long enough to level up as you would in a game. And just like a video game, levelling up takes time, effort, and perhaps some luck (which can be gained by trying many things for a long enough period of time). So, to become better, you need to play the long game. Do something long and consistently enough to see the benefits. That’s one thing I learned that can help become a game changer. Choose something or a few things to focus on and hone it consistently every day whenever you can. That is why I decided to draw, write, and film (failed lol) in the last quarter of the year to narrow down and identify a “niche” to focus on in 2022 instead of many things at once. In the beginning, I thought I saw myself more of a generalist because I enjoy doing many things. But I realised I could still be one even if I put more emphasis in a few areas. Being a specialist does not deprive you of your personality or interests; it simply means people will recognise you for certain topics. ...Or maybe there’s a hybrid I can sign up for? 🤔 I like creating and organising especially on Notion, and I like writing to share my experiences. I only figured that out after trying a bunch of other things first. Now that I’ve done so, I’m going to plan my year revolve around Notion and writing, which will include creating a course (or two). It contributes to my long-term goal of working for myself and living my desired lifestyle. But for the time being, I’m starting small before picking up the pace soon after. As Bruce Lee once said:
"I don't fear the man who has practiced 10,000 kicks. I fear the man who practiced one kick 10,000 times."

Setting personal boundaries

Setting boundaries is something that only few people do, let alone discuss, whether they’re boundaries for work, friends, or family. Someone with healthy boundaries understands when to say “no” and put themselves first, but are also capable of being vulnerable with others. There’s always something new in my relationship even after dating for several years. Suffice to say, we’ve become a little too co-dependent on one another, especially when it comes to our emotions. It can get toxic at times, but we’re getting better at setting personal boundaries such as having separate hobbies. I skateboard, while he goes rock climbing and bouldering. In fact, I think our relationship has improved. Not because we spend lesser time together, but because — at least for me — we’re more capable of opening up emotionally and separating our emotions from one another without getting sucked into each other’s negativity. I’m used to putting my loved ones’ needs ahead of mine, but I’m trying to change that by putting my needs first. This simple life hack has saved me from countless hours of overthinking and people-pleasing, even though it did involve a lot of my tears with my loved ones, hah. People-pleasing is so tiring, but sadly it’s been ingrained in me for so long that it’s difficult to unlearn it right away. So, I’m slowly learning to unlearn. I’m sure many of you are as well. Lastly, I’m learning to detach my identity and self-worth from the work (any work at all) I do. This is establishing a line between the things I do and my overall self. If not, it’s probably the root of all my (or anyone’s) stress and anxiety, self-doubt and self-loathing when things don’t go as planned. Once you realise you’re worthy regardless of what you do, you’ll feel more at peace and come to love yourself more.

Other 2021 highlights

  • Renovated and moved into a new apartment
  • Started weekly reflections and planning more seriously
  • Took a trip
  • Talked to a live online audience twice
  • Fully vaxxed x2
  • Filmed and edited short videos for a week
  • Learning crypto + web3 (finally got a Bitcoin wallet)

Doubling down in 2022

Learning and personal growth will always be part of my goals, but if there’s one thing that taught me in 2021 was to explore and try a lot to find out what I want and play the long game. This brings me to my 2022 goals. Simply put, my number one is to have an internet side hustle ($100 MRR) by the end of the year. $100 isn’t much relatively speaking, but it’s a big goal because I don’t have all the details yet. On a high level, I intend to achieve this by:
  • Embracing Notion, i.e. become a Notion creator (and ambassador) by creating templates and info-products
  • Creating a course (or two), along the lines of mindful productivity or self-care
  • Continuing to write and reflect, and put more focus on two of my newsletters
  • Investing in ETH
  • Audience-building (I need to find a balance of providing “value” and shitposting)
There are also the usual goals I’m continuing to pursue: my PM career, (physical and mental) health and relationships, as well as new (for fun) goals: skateboarding and surfskating in a skating bowl, scuba diving, and creating a community for Buttermilk. Finally, I have two nice-to-have goals: obtaining a 50-hour yin yoga certification and making a (new) YouTube channel. It’s a bit crazy, I know. But that’s why the last two are nice-to-haves, and the fun goals are there to balance out the craziness of them all. It’s hard to predict what else I may come across this year, so I’m keeping things a bit flexible. Flexible new year resolutions.

Cheers to another amazing year ahead! All the best, my friends! Thanks for reading my 2021 annual review. This is my second annual review. You can read my first annual review in 2020 here. For a more detailed breakdown of each quarter, you can read them here:
If you want to follow my journey, follow me on Twitter @empirepowder and/or subscribe to my personal newsletter. If you want to support me, you can buy me a cup of coffee or tea here. 🍵