2019 Year in Review: Self-Discovery, Life Lessons & Dating Insights

What 2019 has taught me about life, people, dating, and myself.

This is the face I make when I’m thinking… thinking about what face I should make for this photo.

At the end of every “Year in Review” mega-post, I compile a list of all the major Life Lessons I’ve learned that year. For 2019, I realized that this list ended up becoming longer than the rest of the blog post. Therefore, I decided to separate them out as a sort of addendum to the main post.

In compiling these lessons, I noticed they fell into 4 major categories and have grouped them accordingly:

  • Principles of Life and Growth
  • What I’ve Learned About Myself
  • People Skills & Leadership
  • Dating & Relationships

Feel free to skip to the sections most interesting or relevant to you. Or just go through them all if you’re feeling in the “personal development” mood today.

Principles of Life and Growth

  • Be the beginner and accept the challenge of the learning curve – It’s important to understand that you’re a beginner when learning something new. You must accept the failure that comes with the learning curve. I encountered this a lot while being on a cover team for the first time, starting my new new jobs, learning standup and improv comedy, etc.
  • Challenges are opportunities to grow – when one door closes, you’re forced to see the other doors that are open. I’ve been experiencing and preaching this all year, but you WANT to feel like the “worst” person in the room. You want to encounter failure and rejection as feedback to move in a better direction. This is the only way to grow into the person who can achieve the results you want.
  • Sleep has a HUGE effect on energy and your capacity to have a productive day – When I get good sleep consistently, the difference is night and day on my energy, mood, and ability to get things done. I highly recommend everyone prioritize getting enough quality sleep consistently.
  • It’s always worth paying extra for higher quality things you use everyday (e.g. phone, computer, car) – I don’t regret my purchases at all because they improved the quality of my life. Upgrading from an iPhone 6 to iPhoneX was a game changer for me in terms of performance, storage, and functionality. Finally upgrading my car from my 2001 to 2014 Civic has also improved my quality of life as because my daily driving experience has drastically improved.
    • Particular note: Bluetooth, tinted windows, cruise control, power doors, remote entry/auto lock, smoother driving experience
  • FAITH – This was a huge theme this year. I had to rely on my faith a lot when it came to my career, extra curricular opportunities, finances, my car breaking down, relationships issues, etc. All of the challenges that initially stressed me out eventually worked out. Faith played a huge role in making it through to the other side. Not only that, but almost everything I’ve asked for, God has provided to me the past year. From blessing me with good finances, a positive career change, and good relationships, asking for and having faith that it’ll work out played a huge part.
  • Live on your own and learn to take care of yourself – I’m grateful that I’ve lived on my own for a while now, which has taught me how to take care of myself. I’ve noticed it more because I’ve met people who have lived with their parents their whole lives haven’t had the benefit of that experience.
  • Don’t compare your journey with others – I think we all struggle with this, and I found myself comparing myself constantly with others during my foray into the kpop dance cover community. Even more so with my peers from college/HS, and seeing their careers all over social media. It took me months before I made it into my first dance cover on Koreos, which was pretty embarrassing considering I’m the oldest member on the team and very “experienced.” Career-wise, I know my career path isn’t as glamorous as my friends who now work at Google, Facebook, Amazon, or where ever else. But I think it’s important to see how far you’ve come and be grateful for all of the blessing we have thus far.
  • Don’t always YOLO, think long-term about even small decisions – I can’t go into specifics of this life lesson, but my future self will know what I’m referring to haha. Things you think may not happen really might, and you’ll have to deal with those consequences.
  • Change your environment to improve productivity – I found that I get a lot more done when I go somewhere to do work (coffee or boba shop, library, etc) instead of trying to do work at home. I feel that my brain has solidified my room as a context for lounging (watching movies, scrolling social media, and sleeping). Therefore, it’s difficult to introduce new behaviors in this space when my brain wants to revert to these “lounge” activities.
  • Find opportunities to act in courage, not fear – I was definitely not prepared when I did my first open mic at my standup comedy class. I only had a brainstormed list of ideas, but my instructor made it seem like no big deal to just go up and read. I could have made excuses and chickened out, but my values are to act in courage, and so I went up. I expected to completely bomb. Surprisingly, I got a few chuckles from my unrefined material, which was super encouraging. Many times this year, I found myself at the same crossroads. And whenever I chose to act with courage instead of fear, I’ve never regretted the outcome or result.
  • When working with others, always hold yourself to high standards as it can have a powerful, ripple effect – I’ve found people whom I’ve on projects with (dance-wise in particular), that they adapted to my level of standards and work ethic. I had the benefit of dancing competitively and then taking that perspective to non-competitive dance friends. They took that interaction, raised their standards, and kept it in subsequent experiences. For them, working in an environment that pushed them and elevated their level of thinking helped them down the line. This is also applicable in one’s career or personal setting. There’s no telling what kind of impact our interactions have had on not just them, but others they’ve affected. Helping to better those around you can have a powerful ripple effect way beyond just you.
  • “Your art is not your baby, you are the baby of your art” – The beautiful thing about art is that most of the value you gain isn’t monetary. The value of creating art comes from who you become from the process of creating. When creators do artistic projects like dance covers, drawings, music, etc., people may wonder “what’s the point?” People always ask dancers if they intend to make a career out of it (many of my friends can attest to this). I’ve found that most of the value of creating comes from your development, not necessarily the art you’re producing. I read in a book that “your art is not your baby, you are the baby of your art,” meaning that it’s not about cherishing what you made, but cherishing who you’re developing into because you’re creating.
  • Advice to HS & College students: follow your curiosities and what gives you energy – I’ve had SO many conversations with students on this topic this past year, both in one-on-ones and group settings. I’ve found this piece of advice resonates with them the most. This is what they really need to hear at this point in their lives. They’re either going into college or going out into the “real world” and are worried about their future. They are constantly wondering what they should be doing. I tell them that as someone who’s on the other side and just a few steps ahead of them, that they don’t need to worry. As long as they strive to give their best effort, opportunities will always be there. If you’re feeling lost on what the next step is, simply follow your curiosities and figure out what gives you energy. In the workforce, your job may or may not drain your energy. Which is why it’s so important to make sure your “extracurriculars” are things you enjoy that recharge you. Don’t think you need to give up what you enjoy when you start working because it’s actually the opposite. You’ll find out that you really need to DOUBLE DOWN on those passions which will give you the energy to do great work in all aspects of your life.

What I’ve Learned About Myself

  • There are very few things I love more than teaching a dance class and making my students laugh – There were many times this year when I taught a large class and I was able to make my students laugh by injecting humor during my instruction. These moments are high points in my day as it combines 3 things I really enjoy: dancing, teaching, and making people laugh.
  • My two most important values: FAITH & GENEROSITY – I think this concept was from the book Dare to Lead. The author gives a list of 50+ values, and she says usually someone has 2 core values. It was hard to narrow it down but after thinking it over for a few days, I came to the conclusion that mine were faith and generosity. It’s clear that my faith and acting in faith is a big part of my life. Also, I think generosity is huge for me because both are rooted in love. Faith comes from a love of God, and generosity is a way to show love to others. Whenever I find opportunities to demonstrate either of those two values, I try to do so consistently.
  • Courage/integrity/persistence is what touches my heart the most – I realized this after analyzing what elements of a movie seem to touch me emotionally and make me cry. Show me a movie where the main character displays courage, stands up for others, or persists despite all of the odds because of what they believe in, and you’ll have me crying like a baby in minutes.
  • Of the 6 major resources we trade in social interactions, my most valued resource is money – In context of a book I read this year Captivate, I learned that out of the 6 major resources we trade in social interactions (love, service, status, money, goods, and information), mine is definitely money. A lot of career and life decisions I’ve made have taken this into account, whether it be my pursuit of personal development or following my passions to eventually make a huge impact on the world. Those are fueled by my desire to make a lot of money and then use that wealth to elicit further positive change. I think this value was passed down to me by my family. Growing up in a lower class/lower middle class family living paycheck to paycheck, I’ve always had my eye on being filthy rich and creating abundance in my life and those around me. But of course, the means of getting there is just as important, as I want to better myself and add value to the community in order to achieve that.
  • Laughter and comedy – Another huge realization for me is the giant role humor plays in my life and how big a role it plays in my personality. In my never-ending journey of self-discovery, it has become almost painfully obvious that I was destined/designed/built to pursue humor and incorporate that into my life. I’ve always been drawn to comedy since I can remember, from making funny videos with my friends, doing satirical blog posts/lists, and even making my family laugh when I was a little baby (my dad has home videos of me when I was 1-2 years old being a jokester and pretending to fall down to make people laugh). This year, I started making a joke-of-the-day series, I started taking improv comedy workshops, and I even took a 5-week Standup Comedy class and performed at open mics several times in the 2nd half of the year. It’s obvious that I’m at my happiest and my best self when I’m laughing with friends and making others laugh, which is why pursuing laughter is going to be my theme for 2020.
  • Service and giving back is addicting – In July, I started to volunteer and serve at my church. I was only doing greeting and ushering, but the experience has been so rewarding and energizing. I can’t imagine myself NOT volunteering and contributing to such an amazing community like my church family. The volunteer experience at Saddleback is so amazing as they really appreciate and take care of their volunteers. It’s a huge realization for me that even helping in the little things can make a bigger impact than you think. I’ve started to help with their High School Ministry to serve as an adult leader every so often. I love working with students and helping to impart my insight. I feel like I am able to relate to them at this stage. What I learned is that when you give to others without expectation for reciprocation, you get more back in return.
  • Seeking truth is a virtue in itself / I dislike people who don’t care about the truth – What I discovered about myself is that I get irritated when people are confronted with the truth, but they react either through denial or justification on why they should behave the same way despite the truth. It’s especially irritating when they don’t care about finding the truth but would prefer to act as though they’ve never heard any truth contrary to what they believe in. They have no desire to find out what is real. I think that’s a clear sign of someone who is not open-minded, which is one of my biggest values. I think the pursuit of truth is inherently valuable. To me, there is nothing more foolish than acting blindly based on tradition without questioning it’s validity.

People Skills & Leadership

  • Great leadership comes from the desire to grow – This is a lesson learned when dancing with people who have high standards, but also in my career. Leaders who have the mindset of constant improvement inspire that in others. I read in a book that confidence is built through repeatedly orchestrating successful outcomes, but enthusiasm inspires confidence and energy in others, which is far more valuable.
  • Don’t work with people who have lower standards than you – I lead a dance project this past year which was particularly difficult. I’ve led plenty of dance projects before with no difficulty, but for some reason, this one was hard. It was because two people in the group were-for lack of a better phrase-“f***ing around” all the time. If you’re like me, it’s pretty frustrating when you have high standards of efficiency for yourself and expect those standards from people around you so that we can be effective with getting our work done. But these two individuals didn’t seem to care about wasting other people’s time. They were both unprepared for practice which set us back a few rehearsals. They were almost always unfocused when they were present. When we finally filmed, one guy kept complaining that he couldn’t go full out because he was hungover (clearly his own decision and consequence) and the other was just not as clean and prepared as he should have been. It was an irritating experience because as much as they deserved to be verbally and publicly reprimanded for disrespecting everyone’s time, I wanted to keep the process running smoothly for everyone involved.
    • Lessons learned: set expectations upfront, plan for people to not do what they say they’re going to do (ex: schedule extra rehearsals even if they say they promise to practice), and if at all possible, do not work with people you know have a reputation for low standards for themselves.
  • Most people will do all the talking if you ask good questions – This is something I’ve learned from books on rapport building, but I had the fun opportunity to test it out during a speed dating event. They weren’t my vibe of people, but it was so interesting to see how effective this technique was in having a good conversation with someone.
  • Sometimes you need a health scare to motivate you to make better health choices – I had bloodwork done this year for my yearly checkup and I discovered I needed to improve some of my stats, particularly with my sugar and uric acid (gout) levels. I’m naturally at higher risk for some things due to genetics. But after thinking I had gout for a couple weeks, I started to reduce my meat intake and eat much healthier. It turned out to just be plantar fasciitis and I just needed to stretch more and wear better shoes, LOL.
  • Elements of being a good teacher – Some things I’ve found work really well for me and also on my students are:
    • affirming their growth and improvement
    • highlighting their strengths
    • giving non-judgmental feedback on improvement areas
    • establishing a growth mindset
  • Communication with difficult people and those with different opinions requires a lot of empathy and good listening skills – For some reason, I’ve come across so many difficult, opinionated, and egotistical people this past year within various groups of friends, colleagues, family, etc. Despite the challenge interacting with them, I found each as an opportunity to grow my ability to successfully navigate those relationships. The first step is always leading first with listening and understanding. People with large egos and close-minded perspectives are best handled with empathy and acknowledgement of the validity of their opinions. Don’t try and fight and reason with them, as that never works. Once they feel heard, understood, and respected, they’re more open to listening to your perspective. They will usually acknowledge that it’s okay for you two to not share the exact same opinion. The end goal shouldn’t be for someone to be right, but for both parties to understand it’s okay and even beneficial to think differently.
  • Not everyone will accept praise and compliments the same way – I’ve found that in my pursuit to deepen my relationships with others, I realized I genuinely want to add value and give praise to others when deserved. Complimenting others is a great way to build friendships. However, I found that sometimes people can perceive giving compliments as being needy. This results in them not being receptive. They might even be skeptical and react negatively. In reality, not everyone is going to be receptive to genuine praise the same way. It’s something I’ve been learning. I can be genuinely nice, but people might come to their own conclusions and assume you’re trying to be manipulative or just flattering them. I think the key is to make sure the compliments are very specific, immediate, and seemingly genuine based on the circumstance. Waiting too long and being too vague can make the compliment seem disingenuous.
  • In order to be liked by more people, you need to like more people – I forgot which book I read that said it, but it’s so true. The more I genuinely act friendly and bring the mindset of liking the people around me, that energy is reciprocated and reflected back at me. As an introvert, this can sometimes take a lot of energy around large groups of people. However, it is relatively easy during one on ones and small groups.
  • Don’t run away from tough conversations, but go towards them as the only way to produce the best result – Another thing I learned and applied, especially after reading the book The Five Dysfunctions of a Team (highly recommend). Most people are scared of these “rumbles,” as they’re called, because we naturally avoid uncomfortable and confrontational situations. But the most successful and functioning relationships develop a culture of finding and going through rumbles as the way to arrive at the best resolution to their conflict.

Dating & Relationships

  • Being aware of other people’s feelings and being on the same page – Unfortunately this year I’ve had a few cases where I wasn’t on the same page with someone I was romantically involved with. We didn’t communicate enough about how we were feeling and it didn’t end well. I take responsibility for not doing my part in making sure we were on the same page, but it was a hard lesson learned in a few different variations. I plan to take this learning in my relationship moving forward and not make this mistake again.
  • RESPECT is the cornerstone of any great, long-lasting relationship (personal, professional, familial, romantic) – It’s undeniable when respect is lacking in a relationship because usually both parties cannot come to an agreement, understanding, or see the other side. However, in relationships where both people handle conflict really well, you can tell that there is a high level of respect.
  • It’s important for partners to have similar values – I discovered this the hard way when a girl I was dating clearly had different values than me. I thought it was something we could be flexible and adapt to, but ultimately it wasn’t. While lifestyle, habits, or personality quirks are adaptable, values are a more fundamental part of someone that need to align in potentially long-term relationships. These are almost non-negotiable in my experience so far. In a subsequent relationship, I’d also add having the same or similar faith is huge. Similar cultural background and lifestyle/living standards is helpful, but not necessarily a deal breaker. However, both parties must be open-minded and flexible (one value that’s a must-have for me).
  • Travel is a great litmus test for partnership compatibility – So far, I’ve experimented with this on a few big trips and it’s surprisingly very effective. Traveling with someone forces both of you outside of your comfort zones, and how you two respond to and work through that uncomfortable environment is very telling on how you’ll approach similarly stressful situations in the future.
  • Avoid people who are entitled and think they deserve an easy life – This is probably the best way I can phrase this life lesson without pointing fingers or calling anyone out. But note to self and anyone reading this: Entitlement is a HUGE red flag. People (especially romantic interests) who have this should be avoided like the plague.
  • Focus on gratitude and the present, not on the past – I think we all get caught ruminating on the past too much sometimes. I found myself guilty of this a lot as I’ve thought about past relationships. This is never a healthy thing to do, especially for extended periods of time. As the saying goes, “too much past causes depression, and too much future causes anxiety”. Whenever I find myself looking back, I have to keep reminding myself to accept the past and move on. Looking back to reflect and learn is good, just don’t stay long or keep going back.
  • Take yourself out on dates – This was a revelation for me. I strongly believe the mantra that you should be your own best friend and treat yourself like one. Self-care and spending time with yourself is so important. Practicing making yourself happy and finding joy in little things is so key. It trains and reminds you that it’s not other people’s job to make you happy. It’s your job to make yourself happy.
  • “Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God” -Romans 15:7 (NIV) – This is a HUGE lesson I’ve been learning this past year in relation to the people around me, especially romantic interests. While I do a decent job accepting others in my normal friendships, one of my dysfunctions in my romantic life is that I impose my personal high standards for myself on my partner/romantic interest. This is bad because I stop accepting/loving them based on how they are, and I start losing respect for them if they don’t hold themselves to the same standards as I hold myself to. For example, I’m a very ambitious, disciplined, goal-oriented person who’s constantly striving to grow, learn, and be open minded. So when my partner isn’t as ambitious or disciplined, or if they’re a bit more close-minded than me, I start to lose respect for them and stop being as kind or loving as I was initially. Eventually the relationship crumbles on both ends. I’ve noticed this trend and it is something I’m improving upon for my current relationship.
  • The concept of “multiple discovery” is real – I learned this idea from the book Big Magic, and I’ve found this is true especially when it comes to my dating life for some reason lol. Multiple discovery is when an idea or concept enters the minds of different people at the same time, like when a scientific breakthrough is discovered by separate scientists in separate parts of the world at the same time despite not having any interaction with each other. This book discusses how ideas are like living things that pass through people, and can pass through different people simultaneously. In regards to my dating life, in a nutshell, it seems like there are either multiple people interested in me, or nobody at all, lol. It’s like it goes in cycles, and for some reason it peaks during the summer for some reason. So weird and interesting. And I’m really not saying this to boast or anything. It’s just a fact I discovered when I analyzed the trends from my past.
  • I’m attracted heavily to girls who have a good sense of humor and don’t take themselves too seriously – It was so strange that I never realized this before, but this is a big switch for me. If I can joke around and laugh with someone, and their humor resonates with mine, that’s a big plus for me. And I don’t just mean I can make them laugh. I mean when they are happy and funny people themselves who can make and take jokes. A big part of this is because they don’t have a big ego and aren’t overly insecure about what other people think.
  • In dating, it’s always the guy’s job to take initiative and polarize first – I don’t agree with this, and I’m not saying this is how things SHOULD be, but rather just a commentary on how things are. As a society, there’s an expectation for the guy to make the first move, and it takes a lot of courage to put yourself out there. It’s a reminder for guys like me that if you really like someone, you have to put yourself out there even though it’s terrifying. That being said, it’s not like it can’t go the other way with the girl taking the initiative, it’s just less likely or expected. On the flip side, many women have to deal with those persistent and annoying guys who lack any social awareness that they’re crossing the line and not respecting a woman’s boundaries. Men should always hold each other and ourselves accountable for our actions and not wait for a woman to tell us we’re crossing the line.
  • Cut off toxic relationships as early as possible – Sometimes you don’t know when a relationship becomes toxic because it happens slowly. However, as soon as you see the signs, don’t wait to cut it off and distance yourself. The longer you wait, the harder and messier it’ll be.
  • Just because someone likes you, doesn’t mean you should date them – I actually got this piece of advice from a friend of mine but it’s so true. Sometimes it’s easy to make yourself think you like the other person back just because they like you. I know I’ve made this mistake before and it doesn’t turn out well because you know deep down that you don’t really like them. Perhaps it’s optimism that you think it’ll work out, but usually your gut feeling knows better. The lesson here is to think more long-term rather than short-term. Usually the relationship is salvageable when thinking long-term, but almost always ends poorly when you only think short-term.
  • Transparency and authenticity is key in a relationship – I started to apply the dating lessons I’ve learned the hard way to my new relationship. A big part of this is leading with transparency and authenticity. I feel like doing this upfront has helped my relationship start off on the right foot and with bonus trust points. Think of like in a video game where your character has beginner stats. Starting off being genuine and transparent gives your relationship a trust stats boost. From there, I feel like intent is communicated early and you’re more likely to be on the same page moving forward.
  • Building healthy romantic relationships utilize the same principles as building healthy work relationships – The concepts of building trust, utilizing strong communication, making intent clear, and maintaining high levels of respect is so key for the success of any long term relationship. I had this realization of “why can’t I use what I learn at work in my personal life?” So now I do.

Thank you 2019 for all the Lessons Learned.

Here’s to applying them and not repeating the same mistakes, haha.

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