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.


Mountain Bull

bull mountain
“Bull Mountain” by Leon Chan

This week’s links are all reads and fairly lengthy ones at that. It’s an eclectic collection with themes dealing with death, social expectations, and the art of making milk tea. As always, the common thread is that these stories were ones I’ve found fascinating and wanted to share.

What I’ve Read:

The Bull on the Mountain | The New York Review of Books – The late Oliver Sacks pens this wonderful story about hiking along a mountain in Norway. It’s one of those pieces that made me fall in love with reading again. I absolutely enjoyed every word from beginning to end, especially his meditations on death towards the end of the story.

I’m in my 40s, child-free, and happy. Why won’t anyone believe me? | The Seattle Times – Wonderful piece from a female author in her 40’s about being single and enjoying it. I love the way she redefines the metrics of a fulfilling life. She has many close relationships with her family, friends, and their children. She also has the freedom to travel and do what she wants without anything tying her down. But most of all, I admire her ability to shut out the outside voices and focus on her own definitions of a good life.

How Hong Kong-style milk tea became part of local culture | South China Morning Post – I’m not sure how I came across this article, it was buried in the middle of my Pocket list. But I’m glad I dug it up because I got to learn more about my mother land and one of my favorite drinks. I’ve been wanting to visit Hong Kong again to see my dad’s side of family, especially my ever aging grandma. So this might be the nudge I needed to finally book a ticket after six years of being away. I can’t wait to wake up every morning to a steaming cup of Hong Kong milk tea.


Through the Air

“Flight” by Leon Chan

Sorry for the lack of updates over the past weeks. I’ve been trying out a new productivity/to-do system and didn’t have the weekly updates on the board. However, a new essay was on the board and I just finished the first typed draft. I think it’ll take a few more passes before it’s ready to be published. In the meantime, read these two informative articles about air travel and bonus post about negativity online.

What I Read:

Paying a Price for 8 Days of Flying America | NYTimes – A witty piece chronicling the author’s 8 day trip across the continental US by air. I felt like I was right there with the writer as she was sitting in the airport lounge following a delay or stuck in the middle seat between fellow passengers. The most eye popping fact was the amount of money airlines made off of first and business classes. From a strictly financial standpoint, I can see why airlines are skimming on economy and pouring it on for the higher priced seats.

Come Fly Away with Me | The Ringer – This article highlights several newsletters and apps that share deals on airfares with its users. I never knew these newsletter existed before reading this piece and found the concept intriguing; so much so that I actually subscribed to one. I enjoyed reading about the history of making travel reservations and the backstory behind each newsletter. Hopefully I can find a sweet deal on an exotic destination for my next vacation.

What 99% Looks Like | Seth’s Blog – Short but relevant post by Seth Godin on sharing work with others. He puts negative comments into perspective and helps minimize the fear of posting online.


Third Time’s The Charm

“Charms” by Leon Chan

Third time’s the charms, or at least it would have been if I were able to find a coherent theme for this update. This week’s reads are a bit random but I enjoyed reading both of them. Ultimately that’s the criteria for how something is chosen to share. Anyways, I hope you enjoy week’s reads.

What I’ve Read:

Q&A: How Shea Serrano went from middle school science teacher to NYT bestselling author | Columbia Journalism Review – I first discovered Shea when I read an article on the Ringer about LaMarcus Aldridge, an NBA player for the San Antonio Spurs. After reading that piece, I poked around on his twitter to find more basketball related goodness. What I found was a strange combination of motivational quotes, trash talking, and hip hop music. This interview is great and definitely inspires me to up my writing game.

China Craves Foreign Goods. Students in Australia Supply Them. | NYTimes – People living in Hawaii, or at least the people I know, love snacks from Trader Joe’s. It seems like whenever anyone visits the US mainland, they return with Cookie Butter and Joe-Joe’s. This story mirrors that dynamic with China and Australian goods. To me, the most fascinating point was the amount of influence and money given to the daigou.


Back In The Swing of It

“Dogs” by Leon Chan

It’s nice to be back and sharing my thoughts and reads on here. I finally wrestled my free time back from its menacing captives. The long grueling hours of studying for the SE exam were whisked away when the test was (hopefully) conquered at the end of October. And the responsibility of looking after two small and very energetic dogs disappeared last weekend when their owners returned from vacation. I now have the time to write, read, and also start a new hobby of bread making.

What I Read:

I Crossed the World | NYTimes – This seemingly straight forward travel piece did more than just make me want to visit Japan or Germany. I followed along with the author as he battled with the significance of going completely around the world. Was it just another box to check off? Or does following in the footsteps of Magellan stir a sense of wanderlust and accomplishment? The author seems to think it’s the latter and I would love to find out for myself someday.

Elon Musk: The World’s Raddest Man | Wait But Why – This four part series takes a deep dive into Elon Musk and his two companies, SpaceX and Tesla. The posts are lengthy but I recommend the entire set to anyone with time. Tim Urban does a fantastic job unraveling the histories of the automobile, energy, and space industries and explains why it’s paramount to disrupt the status quo. I was skeptical about the colonization of Mars before reading the SpaceX post. But now, I am a full blown believer and can’t wait to see cities spring up across the red planet.


Time is a Resource

“Time” by Leon Chan

The first link this week about how our time is spent was an eye opener. It made me think about how many opportunities I’ve got left in my lifetime. I’m thankful to be living so close to my parents and friends and have the chance to see them often. I’m also grateful to have the freedom and time to explore my hobbies and passions. I hope I’m able to make use of this time now before it slips away.

What I’ve Read:

The Tail End | Wait Buy Why – This relatively short essay is packed with amazing illustrations and a very timely message. This piece puts into perspective our most valuable resource, time, and how certain moments in life are passing by faster than imagined. It’s definitely worth the read or, at the very least, a scan through the images.

Iceland’s Water Cure | NYTimes – This fascinating travel piece follows the author as he tries out the many outdoor swimming pools of Iceland. It reminded me of my trip to Japan this past February and the time spent in the onsen. For me, the most revealing aspect of this story was how culturally significant the pools are in Iceland. To the Nordic people, the pools are more than a place of relaxation but also one of community.


Out of Country

“Goryokaku” by Leon Chan

I was out of the country on vacation last week and failed to prepare ahead. Therefore, an update was missing last week and I’m scrambling to put together a few reads for this week. In keeping with the them of traveling, I have a couple stories about getting out and exploring and a sketch from my travels.

What I’ve Read:

Europa or Bust | Popular Science – This very fascinating article presents the case for NASA’s next mission to be for Europa, one of Jupiter’s moons, instead of Mars. The author unravels the history of the icy behemoth and argues the importance in exploring the water underneath the moon’s exterior. The piece is well written and made me excited for the future of space exploration.

Up in the Air: Meet the Man Who Flies Around the World for Free | Rolling Stone – On this last trip, I used award miles on my Chase Sapphire credit card to score a couple of free flights and hotel stays. Although I felt like I gamed the system a bit, it doesn’t come anywhere close to what Ben Schlappig does. This profile of Schlappig highlights the wonders and loneliness of traveling around the world to gather reward miles.


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?