Goal Setting

Past Year Review 2019

pyr 2019
“PYR 2019” by Leon Chan

I do a past year review instead of setting resolutions at the start of a new year. For this review, I look over last year’s events and note the most positive and negative ones. I am adding a wrinkle to this year’s review by also examining my purchases, as suggested by Tim Ferriss.


Weddings – As I get older, more of my friends are hitting life milestones. I’m grateful to be included in these events and share unforgettable moments with them. I was involved in the weddings of two of my closest friends this past year. I had an amazing time celebrating with great food, alcohol, and company.

Travel – I traveled to two different countries this past year. I went to Vancouver in January for a bachelor party. I learned how to snowboard well enough to make it down the slopes without bruises on my butt.

I also visited Japan for 2 weeks during the fall. I ate incredible sushi, relaxed in an onsen, and experienced Halloween Horror Nights at Universal Studios Japan.

Restaurants – My two favorite meals this year were at Sushi Chiharu and Paris.Hawaii. The service, food, and atmosphere at Sushi Chiharu, located in Osaka, was fantastic. I’ve ghost written more about my experience there on Yelp.

Paris.Hawaii provided a wonderful French and Japanese dinner. I got to learn more about wine from their sommelier throughout the meal. This opened my taste buds and deepened my appreciation for food and wine.

Reoccurring Events – Outside of special trips, food, and events, I enjoyed regularly scheduled time with friends and family. I stuffed my face with my mom’s home cooked meals every Wednesday night. After dinner, I head over to my friend’s house to get my butt kicked in Smash Brothers Ultimate. On Sunday mornings in the fall, I watched NFL Red Zone while munching on pancakes and omelettes. I experienced the thrills and let downs at our weekly Game of Thrones and Big Little Lies watch parties.

Appliances – A new washer and dryer made laundry less of a chore. That in itself was worth the price alone. Cleaner and longer lasting clothes is an added bonus.

Household items – A 2nd pair of glasses, parking rental, and an extra phone charger made my life more convenient at my girlfriend’s place. I no longer go blind or have a dead cell phone if I forgot something at home. I also sleep better knowing my car won’t be splattered with bird droppings overnight.

Learning tools – The Fluent Forever trainers and Anki mobile app were great investments. These two tools made it easy to stay on course with my Japanese studies. The Getting Things Done Trello Guide has also been a great purchase. The single page on Weekly Reviews was worth of the price of the entire document.


Website/Writing – My website was hacked during the middle of the year. This was due to outdated plugins and inactivity. I had to contact customer support, get rid of the malicious code, and recover backups. It took over two weeks to get my site up and running.

I realized that I haven’t written anything in the past year. I abandoned my writing and felt guilty for it.

Lowe’s Delivery – It took over two months to get the washer and dryer in my home. The delivery was pushed back a handful of times. When it finally arrived, the dryer was dented and had to be sent back. I was annoyed with the numerous phone calls and scheduling coordination.

Work – I was given the construction administration (CA) duties of a new high rise building this past year. CA involves a never ending list of tasks, especially at the start of construction. There are drawings to review, questions to answer, and meetings to attend. These tasks can easily eat up half my work day.

With the other half of my day, I’m wrapping up other project with approaching deadlines. Juggling these conflicting priorities strained my attention and stressed me out.

DIY – After two years, I realized the noise coming from my bathroom was caused by a slow leak in the toilet. I spent hours researching the problem and the do-it-yourself fixes. Then I bought the replacement parts and tools. I tried three separate times to fix it myself but it still leaks. I am frustrated for spending all that time and money only to end up with the same result.

Travel Logistics – My girlfriend and I stayed at five different places across four different cities during our Japan trip. We brought 4 medium suitcases with us. So the transportation and luggage logistics were a handful. We had to spend time on our vacation coordinating the luggage delivery and train times instead of enjoying ourselves.

Lanai Garden – I spent hundreds of dollars and countless hours cultivating my garden. At the end of the day, I didn’t care too much about the vegetables or herbs. I used the basil once for pesto. The rest of the tomatoes and eggplants were thrown out. My other herbs, such as oregano and green onions, didn’t last more than a couple of weeks.


Dinners – The best part about the watch parties were getting together and sharing a meal with friends. I plan to imitate that experience by making time for dinner parties with friends every month.

Travel – I would like to stay in a luxury hotel for a couple of nights during my next trip. I stayed at a ryokan for a night during my time in Sapporo. It was great way to recharge during a long trip. I also want to limit myself to just one event per day to prevent vacation burn out.

Learning – Love of learning is one of my top character strengths and I plan to foster it more this year. I want to attend a class, activity, or event every month. I also plan to set aside more money for learning, whether that be classes, online courses, or books.

Writing – I plan to write at least twice a month this year. Those who have been following the site might have noticed that new posts are starting to trickle in. I’ll set up a Beeminder with penalties for not meeting my “deadlines.”

Spending – I want to spend less time debating purchases that are $25 or less. Some of these items have a huge impact on my life. This will help me save my time and energy for other decisions.

Similarly, I plan to pay professionals instead of doing it myself, especially if the cost is lower than my personal rate. I also plan to stop spending money and time on gardening since it doesn’t matter that much to me as a hobby.

Overall 2019 was a good year, the positive moments outweighed and outnumbered the negative ones. I am hoping that the plans in place for 2020 will make it another enjoyable year.


Reading about Writing

draft 4
“Draft 4” by Leon Chan

This week’s links are about the process of writing. I have always felt a little insecure about my writing, that I’m an impostor just playing with words. In light of last week’s update on mindsets, I decided to shift my thinking and dedicate some of my focus to the the craft of writing. Below are reads from some of the writers and poets that I admire.

What I’ve Read:

Draft No. 4 | The New Yorker – John McPhee is an amazing creative non-fiction writer and a journalism professor at Princeton University. I believe he is the only one that can make a long essay about copy editing seem exciting. I enjoy how he weaves personal examples to help explain the processes of writing. I really liked the idea of using a dictionary instead of a thesaurus. So much so, I tried the replacing words in boxes technique in one of my latest essays.

What I’ve Heard:

Mary Oliver | On Being – I’ve been expanding my reading to include more poetry. One of the poets that keeps being recommended is Mary Oliver. Her interview with Krista Tippett is enlightening in more ways than one. Mary Oliver says that the writer/poet has to make an appointment to write. This focus on process reminded me of Steven Pressfield’s philosophy in the The Wart of Art: the artist has to show up and “fate” will reward her with inspiration. I was also in awe of her poems and the stories behind them. My favorite poem of hers is the short one below titled Don’t Worry:

Things will take the time they take. Don’t
How many roads did Saint Augustine follow
before he became Saint Augustine?



“Mindset” by Leon Chan

I recently came across a couple of blog posts that discuss the difference between the fixed and growth mindsets. These mindsets help describe how we see our personality traits. In the fixed mindset, the belief is you are what you are; your intelligence, character, and skills do not change over time.

On the other hand, those in the growth mindset believe that life is a process. They view every mistake as a lesson and opportunity to learn. Being bad at something is only temporary, with hard work and practice they feel like they can get better at any skill.

I was introduced to the idea of the growth and fixed mindsets during my time at Teach For America. The organization instilled in us that the growth mindset was critical to students’ development. We wanted the students to believe that being good at math isn’t because you were born with a big brain. It was because you put in the time to learn and practice the concepts of geometry and algebra.

Being exposed to this concept made me realized how much I was stuck in the fixed mindset. At Institute, our group of Corps Members would play volleyball during our off time. I was invited to play but would always decline as I viewed myself as a bad volleyball player. I couldn’t handle the embarrassment of sucking. I remember not trying a bunch of things because I was scared of being exposed. I needed to protect my frail ego from failing or being noticed failing.

Over my two years of teaching, I would fail… a lot. My students didn’t pass the standardized tests in the percentages required by the state. I would spend hours creating lessons with intricate props that would bomb within the first ten minutes. I couldn’t control my classroom of twelve students, it was as if I was ran over by eleven year olds. I felt like I wasn’t making a difference and was just playing teacher. But I wouldn’t change anything about that experience.

The funny thing is I probably learned more about myself than the students did about math, which meant I really failed at teaching. I began to embrace the growth mindset and my failures as much as I hoped my students would. I admitted to not knowing how to bike and was taught by my roommate. I also went surfing for the first time and actually stood up on a surfboard. I got in front of a classroom of students and commanded attention even though I generally don’t like being the center of attention. I leaned into my shortcomings and worked to gain new skills.

However, this doesn’t mean that I’m totally immune to the fixed mindset. At karaoke, I find myself being embarrassed to sing after someone belts out a perfect ballad. I’m still not confident in riding a bike and failed miserably about a year ago. I shy away from social events because I don’t think I’m outgoing enough.

These articles and my experience in Teach For America remind me that those things can change. I can go on Youtube to watch video lessons on singing and vocal chords. I can ask my friends if they would give me bike lessons and practice until I become competent. I can keep going to these events and work on just saying hi to one new person. I wouldn’t want any of my former students to believe that they can’t change for the better, so why would I limit myself to that belief?

What I’ve Read:

Fixed mindset vs Growth mindset | Derek Sivers – Short post that summarizes the differences between the fixed and growth mindset. Great to read if you don’t have time and just want to get the gist of it.

Fixed vs. Growth: Two Basic Mindsets That Shape Our Lives | Brain Pickings – Awesome longer post that weaves Maria Popova’s thoughts into the subject.

Mindset by Carol Dweck | Derek Sivers – This is Derek Siver’s notes on the book that inspired the two blog posts shared above. I like reading his notes because it’s like getting the cliff notes on nonfiction books. The most meaningful notes for me occur towards the bottom of the page. These notes deal with how the growth and fixed mindset affect relationships.

What I’ve Heard:

Tritonia 220 | Tritonal – This is a random nugget thrown into about 800 words about mindsets. Last weekend, I went to a Tritonal concert and had a blast. That might also be the reason why this update was late. For the last month or so, I’ve been listening to their radio show Tritionia in anticipation of the show.


I’ve been thinking about my TFA experience more after this update. I think I’ll use this as a draft to a longer piece about my entire time teaching. Plus, it’ll be nice to have something written that I can refer to when my memory starts fading.


Myers Briggs

“Logistician” by Leon Chan

I got a comment from one my readers (which is like 50% of my audience) asking if I’ve done more tests since Love Languages. As a matter of fact, I did recently take another self survey. This week, I continue my self exploration with the Myers Briggs personality test. This update is longer than usual as I take a deeper dive into my results and whether or not I agree with it and why.

What I tried:

Free Personality Test | 16Personalities

Jung Typology Test | Humanmetrics

The Myers-Briggs personality test is one of the most well known tests of its kind. According to the 16Personalities homepage, over 130 million users have taken the test. It’s most famous for spitting out a four letter indicator that describes your personality type. The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator is based off of Carl Jung’s research and basically states that our personality falls between a pair of opposite traits, such as introversion and extroversion. Each letter in the indicator describes a personality pair. The four pairs describe how we interact with stimuli, process information, and make decisions. I briefly describe the types below but more information can be found on this website.

Introverted/Extroverted: This pair deals with more than just how you handle social situations, it also describes how you get your energy. Introverts remind me of librarians, they prefer quieter situations and like to live inside their heads. Extroverts are more like a stereotypical frat bro who loves being around others and enjoy engaging in a wide range of activities.

Intuition/Sensing: This grouping describe how you process information. Intuitive types bring to mind a scientist, they like to tease out the pattern behind information. People with this personality type also tend to look for the meaning behind what is seen and heard. While Sensing types are like lawyers, they like to stick to the facts and what actually happened. They deal with what’s real and in front of you, focusing on the actual experience.

Thinking/Feeling: These two details how you prefer to make decisions. The thinking types remind of engineers, they like to use analytical processes and logically go through the problem. It’s all about the most efficient or effective way to do things. The feeling types are more like Buddhist monks, they rely on their compassion and feelings towards others when making decisions. They also value harmony and sparing people’s feelings over the hard truth.

Judging/Perception: This combination breaks down how you like to structure your lifestyle. Judging types like to have things planned out. They make lists and tend to focus their attention on achieving their goals. Perceiving types like to approach things with an open mindset. They appreciate flexibility and work in bursts of energy.

I remember taking a Myers Briggs survey back in my early 20’s and getting INTJ: introverted, intuitive, thinking, judging. At the time, it made sense to me. I kept or less to myself and my small group of friends. I also liked solving problems by logically going through the steps. Due to school, most of my days were planned out with the goal of getting through the semester and eventually graduating.

16Personalities MBTI
16Personalities MBTI
humanmetrics MBTI
humanmetrics MBTI

However, the results I got from my two recent tests differ from my past result. My type indicator for both tests is ISTJ. At first glance, it shows that I’m still introverted, thinking, and judging. However, after taking a closer look at the numbers, I have a slight or no preference for Sensing and Thinking and a moderate lean towards Introverted and Judging.

Let’s break down the traits with stronger preferences first, starting with Introverted. I generally agree with this assessment. I don’t like being the center of attention and tend to stay away from huge crowds. I also enjoy having a few nights a week at home to read a book, write these updates, and learn about whatever I’m most interested in at the moment. However, I feel I’m less introverted than the 25% and 50% lean that the tests assessed me at. Although I like to cuddle up with a book, I still feel a need to go out and see my friends at least a few times a week.

I also agree with being labelled with the Judgement profile. Generally, I like to have things planned out. I like to have a sense of what I’m during the next day by the time I go to bed. I understand that life happens and I won’t always get to follow my plans exactly. And those can be pleasant surprises like an unexpected phone call from an old friend or an impromptu dinner party. But sometimes it takes me a little while to shake loose my previously planned activities and go with the flow.

I have a about a 10% lean towards Sensing if I averaged out the metrics. I would have thought I would lean more towards intuition. Part of my job as an engineer is to make sense of the information given. It’s also why I write these updates; I try to create meaning of out the things I read, heard, or seen.

Having said all that, I can see why I might be more Sensing than I thought. Over the past few years, I have started to practice meditation and mindfulness. One of the core beliefs in meditation is to stay in the present. This is taught by reminding the yogi to focus on their breath and notice what is being felt by the different senses. The purported benefit of this practice is to snap you out of stressing about the pass or worrying about the future. So in a way, it’s forcing me actually experience the event instead of analyzing the meaning behind it.

I have a very small preference, close to 5%, towards Thinking. This one is a bit of a surprise to me. Without these tests and descriptions, I would have classify myself as moderately or strongly learning towards thinking over feeling. I like to believe that I am pretty rational and don’t let my emotions affect my decisions. But this personality distinction isn’t about emotions. As summarized above, the feeling type takes into account other people’s feelings and is more closely related to compassion.

Looking at it from that perspective makes more sense to me. I noticed that I tend to prioritize harmony and avoid confrontation. But lately, I think I have become more grateful and in tune with others. Within the past month or two, I have been answering the prompts from the 5 minute journal every day to practice gratitude. One of the prompts in the journal, is to list three things you are grateful for. A tip I picked up from Tim Ferriss is to make one of those three things a person. So almost every morning, I think about one person I am grateful to have known or to have in my life. I think this affects my feelings of compassion and has helped me be more considerate of other people’s feelings.

I’m not sure if I truly believe I’m in the middle of Intuition/Sensing and Thinking/Feeling, but it’s nice to think that I get the best of both worlds. I am equally adept at finding the meaning behind something as well as experiencing the real event. I also balance using cold hard logic as well compassion to make decisions. However, it could also mean I don’t do any of those things and that’s why I have a slight or no preference.

Even if this is all bullshit, I still feel this was a good exercise to go through. As you can tell from my thoughts above, I got to shift my perspective on what I thought was my personality. I also got to apply critical thinking and ask myself if I agree or disagree with the assessments and why. Additionally, I got to see or create narratives on how some of my daily routines have changed my life (hopefully) for the better.


What I Learned: Travel Sketching

accidental aliens
“Accidental Aliens” by Leon Chan

My heart skipped a beat and my hands got balmy after hearing the words, “Please open your sketchbook and leave it on the table.” Tamara Moan, our art instructor, just asked the class to share their artwork before the conclusion of the first day of class. I looked at my sketches from the day, three out of the four scenes had aliens in them. It wasn’t my intention to draw extraterrestrial figures, the people and statues I drew just happened to look that way. Without a second thought, I picked the sketch that least resembled a sci-fi storyboard and quickly slipped it in with the rest of the drawings.

I stepped back towards the other students and took in everything laid out on the worn wooden desk. I was floored by what I saw; why are these people taking an introductory sketching class? All the artwork displayed (except mine) looked stunning and professionally drawn. I was ashamed of my drawings and tried to get as far away from them as possible; I didn’t want to be associated with those sketches. However, no one said anything negative (to my face) during the impromptu gallery walk and class was over for the day. I was able to stave off death by embarrassment for at least another day. So how did I get myself in this sticky situation?