2020 Year in Review: Life Lessons on Success, Relationships, and Well-Being

What 2020 has taught me about success, people, and my well-being.

The best way to reflect is to sit on a couple of stools in a park while dressed like a flower boy in a wedding

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. Last year, I started the tradition of separating this into a separate post from the main 2020 Year In Review post.

In compiling these lessons, I noticed they fell into 3 major categories and have grouped them accordingly:

  • Career & Success
  • People & Relationships
  • Health & Well-Being

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 mood.

People & Relationships

You can care for both yourself and others. These two are not mutually exclusive – A friend told me about how in her relationships, she feels like she tends to stretch herself thin for the sake of others, which is really draining. I have another friend who chooses to care only for herself above others. I believe it’s about finding the balance between the two. Lifting others up is important for our relationships, but should not be at the expense of our own well-being.

Your attitude towards the world and people in it will determine their attitude towards you” – This was a quote from a book I read during the year. It’s a great reminder that what you put out into the world is what you’ll get back.

One of the biggest reasons to grow intentionally is so that you can better help others around you – Similar to how a drowning person cannot save another, the benefit of improving ourselves is that we have a greater capacity to help others. That is why taking care of yourself and others is not mutually exclusive.

Understanding someone’s value system helps us understand their intent – At work, we had a discussion about overcoming dysfunctions in teams. It is important to understand an individual’s values, human needs, and how they communicate. The more we understand each other, the better our team will perform.

In any relationship/partnership, having mutual goals to work together towards is key – This insight came about while building our content channel JR & Blessie. I think one of the key factors that separate this relationship from all my past ones is that we have such a strong focus towards a mutual goal, which keeps us aligned. Moreover, we’re constantly growing together which creates a relationship of virtue. The relationship fosters an environment of growth for us individually. A relationship of virtue has the most depth and stability above relationships based on simply pleasure or utility.

You cannot control how toxic and adversarial some people are. The best thing to do is not take it personally – This lesson was learned in context to having a toxic coworker who was very territorial and political. He was so insecure about his position in the company that he resorted to a command-and-control management style within his sphere of influence. The lesson I learned was that sometimes the best thing to do is not take it personally and let it go.

When in a confrontation with someone, engage them first by listening with compassion and empathy – I’ve had a couple of confrontations during the year with a coworker of mine, as well as with my grandmother over social media. In both instances, approaching both situations in an empathetic manner helped to diffuse the situation. I find that the #1 cause of any argument escalating is the presence of two or more egos. If you can learn to put your own ego aside, you’ll have taken the necessary first step to deescalate the situation and prevent it from blowing up.

If you want to learn about Teamwork and Leadership, watch One Piece – I may sound super biased because this is my favorite anime, but it’s true. The main protagonists in this anime, the members of the Straw Hat Crew, are a prime example of what makes a great team and what makes a compelling leader. Their adventure stresses the power of empathy and integrity, trust and competency, and leading by relying on others.

America has a foundation of hypocrisy and racism – After reading books like Stamped From the Beginning, White Fragility, Make Change, How to Be an Antiracist, etc, it’s so obvious that America was founded on deep, racist roots. It makes sense why we’re still dealing with major issues involving race, police brutality, and a large economic divide that keeps growing. This juxtaposed to the supposed ideals of equality and freedom makes for disturbing hypocrisy in our nation’s culture.

Any relationship has the potential to be fruitful and rewarding, depending on how much you commit to nurturing it and supporting its growth – In my experience with dating and relationships, I’ve found there’s a clear correlation between how much you nurture a relationship and how vibrant it will be. Every relationship requires consistent effort and energy. Just like how anything neglected will wither away, relationships will grow proportional to how much effort you put into it.

Other people’s reactions and actions are a reflection of them, not you – I’ve had to keep this in mind when encountering people who are either negative, or just neutral/disengaged. It’s easy to jump to conclusions that there’s something wrong with you when people don’t respond to you the way you expect, or simply don’t engage with you. Don’t take anything personally as 99% of the time, they’re probably not thinking about you, but rather about their own problems.

Cultivate deeper, long-term relationships – I’ve been taking this habit a lot more seriously this year, especially because of the isolation caused by the pandemic. Since we couldn’t gather or see each other, it really put into perspective for me the importance of people and relationships. Over the course of the year, I’ve been scheduling regular, monthly meetings with some of my dearest friends, both virtually and safely in-person. These are individuals who I want in my life long-term because of the energy and light they bring to my life. The more I do this, the more I see the tremendous value in cultivating deeper relationships. Life drastically improves as the quality of your relationships improves.

Career & Success

Success formula = decades of commitment to your craft + leap of faith in yourself – This insight was inspired by JoKoy’s story. He did comedy for 30+ years before having his huge breakthrough. But he says it was worth it, and he’s now reaping the fruits of his labor.

Lessons from climbing the dam during our “BTS – On” filming:

  • When one person shows they can do it, it blazes the trail for others
  • It’s important for those who come first to help others up, especially when advantages and opportunities are not the same
  • The view at the top is way better with friends, especially when you work together to accomplish it

Use your blessings to be a blessing – This was one of the lessons we learned during a bible study. Happiness comes from helpfulness, and influence comes from serving others

In your career, get good at keeping track of the value you add – This is a lesson I learned a long time ago from a revered coworker. This practice is important so that you can cover your own bases in case your workplace happens to be political or toxic. Hopefully, you’ll get lucky and not have to deal with this, but it’s more likely that you’ll find yourself in this type of environment at least once in your life.

Life is about adventure. It’s the journey you take with those you love – Another great insight from One Piece. The central theme is all about living for the journey and making memories with the important people around you. That’s where the true “treasure” of life comes from.

To improve productivity, move into a more focused work environment – I’ve found that environment is a much bigger factor in being able to focus and get work done. For me, I found that what works best is going to a cafe with wifi and playing instrumental music that keeps my brain from wandering. I’ve gotten so much done with just this small change in my routine.

Find and celebrate small wins to boost motivation – My book summary blog has been in development for 4-5 years now, and the most motivating thing happened this year when I started to receive donations from people who absolutely loved the free value I was giving to them. Even though they’re small donations, it was such a huge, motivating factor to keep going and refining my site.

Having smart money habits and behaviors will give you peace of mind and true financial security – People always think that they need a “good paying job” to have financial security. But people who actually understand money know that this isn’t the case. Financial security comes from strong financial literacy. It comes from having the right habits and putting the right systems in place so that your money is not only protected, but working for you. Knowing your numbers, your expenses, and your goals will do much more for your financial security than simply trying to get a job you think pays well.

Constantly seek feedback and have the desire to improve – Whether in dance, relationships, career, hobbies/skills, etc, this is so important to keep in mind. If you want to get better at anything, you must actively seek feedback and not be afraid of it. Once you stop seeking feedback, that’s when you’ll stop improving.

Create synergy across projects – Something I learned from Nat Eliason. When you have multiple projects going on, as I seem to always do, it’s important to create synergy across them in order to juggle them effectively. If they can be related somehow, it’ll make progressing in each of them considerably easier. I’ve found this to be the case with my projects, though I still have to get better at it.

Your most challenging situations are your biggest opportunities for growth – Late last year, I was facing difficult challenges in work and with my living situation. I think what’s important to help you get through it is to see it as an opportunity to “level up” and think creatively to get out of that situation. When you do so, you’ve gained invaluable experience that will allow you to handle the next difficult situation. The worst thing you can do is run from it and then disempower yourself to overcome obstacles. Most people don’t enjoy going to the gym, but getting stronger comes as a result of facing the challenges in front of you and pushing your own limits.

When creating content, always make sure to have fun along the way and enjoy the process – This is something Gary Vaynerchuk always preaches about social media and content creation, and it’s something I’m always trying to keep at the top of mind as we build our JR & Blessie brand. If you don’t enjoy the process, what’s the point? I believe that if you don’t like what you’re doing, it’ll eventually catch up to you and you’ll hit a wall. It’ll also show in your content that you don’t genuinely enjoy what you do, and that will hinder your sustainability.

The universe supports what supports the universe – Worded another way, growth and support for others fosters more growth and support in your own life. I’ve seen this firsthand so many times this year, especially as we grow our J&B channel. The way to grow a following is to add value to your audience. For us, it’s through entertainment and laughter. As we come across more people, it seems there are increasingly more people who would like to support our success. Not only have we been able to collab and partner with others, but I’ve had friends who offered to help us grow on other platforms like Twitch. We’ve also had shoutouts from other creators that have helped us grow significantly. This is a great reminder to always give back when opportunities come because of how much others have given to us.

Health & Well-Being

It’s crazy how far the body can push when the mind has resolve – Last year I did a 6-mile run around my neighborhood cold turkey without any training on a whim. I wanted to prove I could. While I was running, I had this epiphany: when our mind makes a decision, that’s when change starts to happen. It all starts with your own resolve.

The key to a successful morning routine is a good wind-down, bedtime routine – I think most people desire to wake up early so they can get a jumpstart on their day to be productive. A big part of this is having a solid morning routine. But in order to have a successful morning routine, you need to wake up early. But in order to wake up early, you need to sleep on time. And that’s the hard part that I think most of us struggle with. A good wind-down routine at night is critical to actually falling asleep. The book Think Like A Monk covers this in detail, but what has helped me a lot is having my phone restrict my apps during a certain time. It reminds me to wrap up my time on my digital devices at night. If I can put down my phone at least an hour before I want to go to sleep, then actually falling asleep becomes much easier.

Prioritize sleep! – After reading the book Why We Sleep, I learned how truly important sleep is for our overall health. In fact, it’s arguably one of the most important things we can do for better health, more than nutrition, hydration, exercise, and mindfulness. Sleep is the foundation for good health. If you don’t get proper sleep, none of these other pillars of health will be able to stand up.

My unhappiness is simply rooted in the fact that I’m not in the present – I learned this from the book Solve for Happy. Most positive emotions are in the present. The negative ones are either anchored in the past or future.

Meal prepping saves money and helps you eat healthier – since the start of the pandemic, I started to seriously meal prep consistently again. I would do about 16 meals every 2 weeks, 2 different sets. This easily saved me $200-300 per month on food costs, and also promoted healthier eating since I tended to eat healthier food when going through my prepped meals. It’s also very empowering to calculate how much each prepped meal costs overall, and see relatively how overpriced going out to eat is. One of my prepped meals would cost anywhere from $1.50 – $4, compared to a minimum of $8 when eating a meal from a restaurant.

Always remember what you HAVE, especially during times when you feel like you need more – A reminder to myself this year. There were many times when I felt I was lacking in some area in my life. However, refocusing on all of the blessings I have in so many different areas helped show me that God has actually blessed me with an abundance. He has always provided for me, and I need to act in faith that He always will.

Buy a 2nd wok – So for the longest time, I only had one of these that I used to cook 16 meals during my meal prep sessions. I cooked 2 separate meat dishes and 2 full woks of veggies. Basically, I would have to use the same wok 4 times to cook everything. Needless to say, this was a huge time suck. I considered getting a 2nd wok for the longest time but put it off because I didn’t like having too much kitchenware because it becomes a hassle with storage and when moving. But finally, I had to change something because I didn’t have enough time to cook everything in one session (my landlord was super strict with kitchen usage). So I finally bought a 2nd wok. This was a game-changer because I could cook 2 dishes simultaneously and improve my total prep time by about 40%. Lesson learned – just buy the damn 2nd wok. The tradeoff is worth it.

Thank you 2020 for all the Lessons Learned.

This past year was unexpected, but still a huge blessing in so many unexpected ways. Excited to see how 2021 will compare.


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