Why Am I Writing This?
It’s that time of year again! I both look forward to and dread this time of year. I enjoy it because I get to reflect on my year as a whole, revisit good memories, lay out my achievements, and express gratitude for all of the blessings in my life.
I don’t enjoy it, however, because it’s such a huge endeavor. That’s why I put it off each year. I think last year I didn’t finish it until the end of March? That’s already 1/4 of the year gone. *facepalm*
As of this writing, it’s almost the end of February. I only put it off this time because I wanted to catch up with my January book notes before getting started on this. (See my most recent book notes: The Autobiography of Malcolm X which is a fantastic read. I highly recommend it!)
And now that I’m caught up, I have no other excuses haha.
2020 Has Been One Heck of a Year
I would be remiss if I didn’t mentioned what an unprecedented year 2020 has been. Not only did we have a global pandemic that claimed a lot of lives, completely tanked the economy, and halted travel around the world, but it was also a time of social unrest. The BLM movement gained momentum in response to police brutality, and racism was stoked by white supremacists supported by arguably the worst president in modern U.S. history, Donald Trump.
This year forced us as people to learn how to cope with adversity and adapt to hardships many of us have never experienced before. Unfortunately, some of us had to also deal with the loss of family, friends, careers, and overall a sense of security.
While I’m grateful that none of my immediate circle of family and friends have gotten sick, I do know people who have lost loved ones. But as we wrap up the 1st quarter of the year with several vaccines being distributed, there’s light at the end of the tunnel. They’re projecting that by May, there will be enough doses for all adults in the country. So hopefully I’ll be able to travel and fly to the Bay Area and visit family.
For me personally, this year has been a year of creative growth, deeper personal connections, and honing in on developing my skills. But I’ll go over these later on in this post.
A Tradition Since 2016
Since 2016, I’ve been doing these yearly reviews mainly for my own records. However, these reflections may also be beneficial to others, so I write them with the intention of a public audience reading them.
For those who don’t know, I do daily, weekly, and monthly versions of this reflection process.
- Daily journal entries – to record my activities and thoughts for each
- Weekly reviews – I examine the highlights of my week as well as track my progress on personal projects
- Monthly retrospectives – focus mostly on big highlights and life lessons I’ve learned that month
This yearly reflection is a culmination of all three of these at a higher level.
Writing this reflection is an arduous process because I have to comb through all my reflections and synthesize them into something like an annual report.
The reason I make this public is to
- Share with my friends and family what I’ve been up to
- Keep myself accountable with my big goals
- Share the life lessons I’ve learned along the way
- Hopefully inspire others to adopt a mindset of gratitude and illustrate the value of continuous self-reflection
Past Years In Review:
This year, I’ve also separated out my 2020 Life Lessons section into a separate post as a sort of addendum to this main post.
For my yearly review, I traditionally use the B.A.G. format. The acronym stands for:
B = Blessings
A = Achievements
G = Goals
The idea is that to keep yourself happy and centered, you have to reach into your “BAG” every so often. This helps me focus on gratitude looking back, celebrate wins, and direct my focus for the future.
What I’m Grateful For
Family & Friends
Parents – My parents have been amazing this year. The last time I flew up was in June, but I also made a roadtrip there with Blessie in early September. My mom has actually been going to school in addition to working, and my dad and stepmom have been grinding/working through the pandemic as well. I’m glad we’re able to connect during holidays virtually, and also stay connected on social media. I honestly can’t wait to see them again hopefully very soon.
Siblings – All three of my siblings are fantastic, they all make me so proud. My baby brother Daniel is always doing his thing on TikTok, making funny videos, and also doing school at home. My little brother Jacob has been doing the same, school from home. I see him when mom and I have hour bi-monthly zoom calls, and he seems to be mapping out his future. He’s going into his 3rd year in high school I think? But he has a great work ethic so I know he’ll be successful in whatever he decides. I’m also grateful to my sister. I don’t see or chat with her often, but I know mom sees her everyday and sometimes I’ll see her on our family zoom chats.
TFTI Parea (Julie & Linda) – I’m so thankful that us three were able to establish a monthly get-together before pandemic and that it continued throughout 2020. We did virtual meetups, for several months before we felt it was safe enough to meet up in person in outdoor locations. It’s always nice to have a regular group of friends to catch up with, discuss relationships, careers, hobbies, philosophical topics, pop culture, current events, and of course eat great food. And we almost always get dessert too, usually in the form of boba lol.
Alex Enigan – Not sure if he’ll ever see this but I wanted to give him a special shout out. We met recently, like the end of 2019, but were more acquaintances with a lot of mutual friends. But throughout 2020 when I was still living in Irvine, the homie would hook me up with 7 Leaves pretty much every time I went and he was working! He never asked for anything in return, but was always super nice and we would say hi for a bit. Alex is truly a kind soul and one of those guys that it seems like everyone likes. Hopefully we’ll become closer friends in the future.
Lindsey Cassell – Lindsey is another coworker turned long-time friend. Aside from being ex-coworkers, we were also gym buddies for a bit which was great. What’s awesome about Lindsey is not only is she just naturally easy to get along with and like, but she has a growth mindset that drives a lot of her current success. I’d say we have very similar mentalities when it comes to our career, and she recently made an inspiring career-change because of the pandemic where she get’s to help people take control of their finances. I’m always excited to hear how her business is developing as a new entrepreneur, as well as her developing wedding plans. Oh, and we also have a similar style of humor which always makes our dinner chats so enjoyable.
Rani Bungay – Another long-time friend, Rani and I danced together in college and always aligned on two things: humor and work ethic. I mean, the dancing and the Filipino things are a given, but I think what I’m most grateful for is having a friend like Rani who continues to push to be his best self. He’s a natural risk taker and leader, and that’s the type of person I like being around. I’m super stoked to see him take his career journey even further and to learn from him.
Marco Dominguez – Marco is by far one of the most real, down-to-earth, warm, and kind souls you’ll ever meet. He’s the kind of guy who makes you feel good when you’re around him because that’s the type of guy he his. He’s supportive, empathetic, relatable, and has the intellect to have long and deep conversations with. Anybody who knows me knows that I gravitate towards these people because I love having those memorable discussions with thoughtful people. I also know him through dancing on our old KPOP cover team. We’ve been meeting up semi-regularly as well, but I expect it to be more consistent, especially as the pandemic winds down and we’re able to have dinner + karaoke nights with our friends again.
Blessie of J.R. & Blessie – My girlfriend, best friend, video counterpart, co-creator, partner in crime. I hate to say it because so many other people always make this joke, but she has really been my biggest blessing this year. My pandemic experience would have been 1000x less fun and more lonely without her. I know that dating has been hard for many people in this era of social distancing, but I’m so lucky to have found Blessie before everything got locked down. I think creating/running a business together combined with spending time together allowed us to align on a goal. This helped advance and deepen our relationship. As we progress into year-2 of our relationship and our business partnership, I’m excited to see what this next year holds for us.
Groups of Friends
Church small group – For the last few years, I’ve mentioned my church small group as a group I’m extremely thankful for. Even though it’s been a while since we met regularly for bible study, I’ve set reminders for myself to schedule monthly gatherings so we can keep in regular contact. I’m so grateful to hear updates about their lives, careers, wins, losses, and testimonies of faith. God has been so grateful to each of us over the years, and I’m glad our group helps remind me of that.
KPOP Dance team (Koreos) – At the very end of the year, I auditioned for (and eventually made it in to) my 3rd season of being on Koreos. Joining them 2 years ago was one of the best dance-decisions I’ve made, especially after college. What I love most about being on the team is dancing with others passionate about dance and kpop. I think it’s important to surround yourself with hungry (metaphorically and literally, lol) artists who collectively raise each others’ standards. This helps us individually become better artists because we keep each other from being complacent. It also shows us the possibilities if we keep pushing and working hard. They’re just a fun bunch of kids (only because they’re all 6-10 years younger than me haha) and it keeps me feeling young. Age is just a mindset, and it’s a good reminder to me that your only limitations are ones that are self-imposed.
Dance students – I taught my in-person classes up until March when everything got locked down. However, I was fortunate enough to be able to teach several private lessons safely throughout the lockdown. I’m so grateful to still have been able to teach as I absolutely love it. I also love working with each of my students because they’re all passionate artists and hungry to learn.
JR & Blessie fans/followers – This group came at the very tail-end of 2020, like end of November and all of December. In about 6 weeks, we gained 200k+ followers (mostly from TikTok) and have received an overwhelming amount of love and support. I’m so grateful to each of them who decided to follow along with us on this journey.
Halfway into the year (and about 3 months into the pandemic), my contract with Pacific Life ended and they were unable to renew due to the pandemic. Most people probably would understandably be worried by this time, but I was more relieved than anything else.
The first reason I wasn’t worried was that I’ve been wanting to leave for a few months already. My boss started to create a toxic work environment for our group over the past half-year. While I don’t want to devote too much time to this subject, all I’ll say is that it’s stressful trying to preach communication, growth, and feedback when your boss is the least receptive to feedback. My whole team felt the same, but she took every piece of soft feedback as a personal attack for some reason. So in some ways, it was a blessing to not continue in that space.
The second reason was that my finances were so dialed-in (savings, emergency fund, investments, monthly expenses) that I could go without work for 2 years and be okay. That’s how much of a financial cushion I’ve been preparing for.
The third reason was that it gave me so much time to work on my projects, hobbies, and side-businesses. I’ll go into more detail later, but it was a welcomed break from working full time.
In December, I found another TechPM/Scrum Master job at my current company. So far, it’s been a great experience. Although I’m basically spearheading the entire department’s Agile transformation, it’s a really good growth opportunity for me to develop the practice myself.
Clearly, travel was essentially shut down during lockdown. I was able to take a flight in June to NorCal for my sister’s birthday, as well as a roadtrip to NorCal with Blessie in September.
In November, we also did an early Thanksgiving roadtrip to Las Vegas so we could go to the Honolulu Cookie Company’s store near the strip, and so I could do the Cereal Killerz challenge – 5lbs of cereal and 1 gallon of milk in one sitting. Aside from a few trips to LA, not much traveling this year.
That being said, I’m sure once the pandemic is over, we’re all going to be making up for the lost time. I know I will be!
Relationship & our 1-year anniversary
December of 2020 marked my 1-year anniversary with Blessie. It was such an interesting yet very welcomed experience developing a relationship with someone, mostly during a global lockdown. It was nice to have someone that I could see everyday since she was technically “part of my household” though we didn’t live together. We both isolated ourselves from everyone else and were extremely safe when going out. Since I worked from home, and her workplace took safety precautions very seriously, we both felt safe with just us. Plus we both got tested regularly.
This first year together has been nothing short of a blast. Yeah, it would have been much more fun if we could travel and explore more. However, that forced us to be creative with how we spent our time. From virtual karaoke nights, virtual movie nights, and creating content for our channels, we definitely stayed busy.
One thing that I really enjoyed doing that I’ve never done in my past relationships is have monthly retrospectives together. Together we look back on the past month, then write and discuss the following:
- What we’re grateful for
- What to continue doing
- What to stop doing
- Things to try / things to discuss
It’s not only a way for us to communicate what we think is good, but also provide a safe space to talk about things we should improve.
This is a team-building technique that I use for work in software development teams, and I know that some agile practitioners use these methods successfully in their personal lives. So I figured, why not try it myself? And so far, we both really enjoy it and feel like it adds value to our relationship. It’s a great way to keep both parties on the same page.
After all, we are a team, right?
While this year has been a blast, I’m also looking forward to year 2. They say the honeymoon phase lasts an average of 2 years, though we both agree that it doesn’t necessarily feel like the honeymoon phase. But I’m curious to see how (if at all) our dynamic will change at around that mark. On our current path, I can’t honestly imagine us changing that much.
Thankfully, we’re both committed for the long term, which is a great feeling. Compared to the dating life when nothing is certain and there’s just a general feeling of insecurity, it’s nice to know your partner is in it for the long-run.
Embracing My Passion for Humor
Last year, I wrote this section about beginning my standup comedy career after taking a 5-week class and then performing in several open mics. I’d be remiss if I didn’t follow up on that.
After about half a year break, I got back into a regular groove of doing open mics when the comedy club started hosting them at a park to account for safety guidelines. I was lucky enough to have Blessie at almost all of them to cheer me on, record my sets, and laugh at my jokes. I loved the process of getting together with other comedians on a weekly basis to work on our craft.
Unfortunately, due to increasing cases, the comedy club was unable to host them anymore, so the last few months I was unable to perform. I’m hoping that as things open up again when cases go down, I’ll be able to do weekly open mics again.
My comedy pursuits were able to continue, however, when Blessie and I started to get traction on our TikTok. Filming funny skits and videos was so much fun. Not only did we make ourselves laugh, but we were able to bring smiles to literally thousands of people around the world.
Even if it’s just with a 12-second video, it’s a thrill to bring laughter and joy to people.
Stats / Achievements
- Books read: 34
- Movies watched in theaters: 31 (via AMC A-List + others)
- TV Shows & Anime watched: 10
- My Hero Academia
- Devil May Cry
- The Boys
- Naruto Shippuden
- One Piece – (700+ episodes & caught up)
- Avatar: The Last Airbender
- Space Force
- Goblin Slayer
- Akame Ga Kill
- Videogames played: 4
- Far Cry 4, Battlefront, Watchdogs, Uncharted 4,
- Donated blood 5 times
- Jan 23
- Mar 28
- June 2
- Aug 3
- Oct 26
- Biggest trip: EF Ultimate Europe Roadtrip (UK, Netherlands, France, Switzerland, Italy)
- Dance Team: Koreos – Megastuf Era (extended edition)
- New job: Lereta
- Started JR & Blessie YT & other socials: @jrandblessie
- KPOP classes & private lessons: 42
- Official KPOP covers: 7
- Foodie photos posted: 343
- Visited family 3 times
- Feb (mom flew down) – SoCal
- June (Ate & mother’s day) – NorCal
- Sept (road trip w/ Blessie) – NorCal
- Standup Open Mics @HB Park: 8
- Completed Flystrong Handstand video course
- Started consistently meal-prepping again
- TFTI Parea dinners w/ Julie & Linda
- @Krave Asian Fusion – 1/16
- @Miyabi Shabu+ Sunright Boba – 3/9
- Zoom + donut walk – 6/10
- Zoom – 7/15
- Zoom – 8/12
- Google Meet – 9/16
- @Mr.BBQ + Krispy Kreme – 10/20
- @Woodbury Town Center – 11/24
- Got my first donations to my book summaries blog
- Setup my YBC summaries newsletter – July
- 21-day challenge: jump rope + intermittent fasting – Aug-Sept
- Created 60+ YBC Executive Book Summaries
- Posted 96 #JokeOfTheDay IG stories on JR & Blessie
- Gained 200k followers in 6 weeks on our @jrandblessie TikTok
- EF Ultimate Europe Roadtrip (UK, Netherlands, France, Switzerland, Italy)
- Yelp Clubbing Event + Karaoke Night @Old Vine – 1/17
- Paint Nite + Mansion Clubbing – 1/24
- Judging for Tet Festival Talent Competition – 1/25
- Karaoke Crew hangout @Soyokaze Sushi & DDD – 1/31
- Koreos Megastuf Era Photoshoot & Retreat – 2/15-17
- BTS Black Swan cover filming w/ Koreos – 2/20
- JoKoy world tour show @TheForum – 2/21
- Mom’s weekend visit + sold my old car – 2/22-23
- BTS On cover filming w/ Koreos @Sepulveda Dam – 3/1
- BTS Danger & SVT Thanks cover filming w/ KKAP @UCI – 3/7
- Finally got brown sugar boba ice cream after 6 weeks of searching – 3/11
- Mamamoo Hip cover filming w/ Koreos – 3/14
- My 1st quinceanera (Blessie’s friend’s little sister) – 3/14
- Officially launched JR & Blessie YouTube channel – March
- 30-days of TikTok challenge (Mar-Apr)
- What started off as a “workout challenge” became a 30-days of TikTok challenge. The only thing I got out of it was a better familiarity with how the platform works (oh and some laughs from friends)
- Weekly family zoom calls
- Birthday + Benihana w/ Blessie – 4/5
- Zoom Karaoke – May
- NorCal trip for sister’s birthday & Mother’s Day 6/13-14
- Moved to new apartment in Buena Park – July
- Caught up on One Piece (760+ episodes in 12 weeks)
- Koreos Megastuf Era Virtual Banquet – 7/18
- Work sessions @Intentional Coffee
- Filmed SSAK3 Beach Again for Koreos – 8/16
- Filmed Ateez Inception for Koreos @UCLA – 8/28
- Road trip to NorCal to visit fam – 9/5-7
- BTS Dynamite cover filming w/ Koreos in LA – 9/13
- Filmed ACE Favorite Boys filming for Koreos @UCLA (+earthquake) – 9/18
- Blackpink Ice Cream cover filming w/ Koreos @UCLA – 9/20
- Park karaoke session – 10/4
- OC Crew hangout @TheSource – 10/15
- Met Blessie’s mom + church talent show – 10/18
- First in-person TFTI dinner in 7 months @KBBQ – 10/20
- Koreos OC hangout: The Source, EKO Karaoke, Billiards – 10/23
- Pasadena trips w/ Marco & Blessie – 10/25, 10/30
- Halloween park karaoke & KBBQ – 10/31
- Small Group dinner @Culver Plaza – 11/5
- Biden won the presidential election! – 11/7
- Rose City Pizza w/ Marco – 11/7
- Catchup w/ little sis Mia @DJ – 11/11
- Catchup w/ Kan @OneZo – 11/12
- Suprised Blessie for her birthday at work – 11/17
- Dan’s birthday dinner @DinTaiFung – 11/21
- Thanksgiving Dinner – 11/26
- Vegas Trip (Honolulu Cookie & Cereal Killerz Challenge) – 11/27-28
- Started monthly book blogging mastermind w/ Jeremy
- 1-year anniversary & relationship retrospective – 12/8
- Tori Kelly Drive-In concert – 12/21
- Collabed with Christine aka Happy Slip for a TikTok– 12/23
- Won Feng Cha $200 gift card giveaway via TikTok – 12/26
- Tanaka Farms Hikari drive-thru – 12/29
Goals from 2020
Theme for 2020: The Year of Connection & Laughter
- Get 1st pref in Koreos cover casting (Rosé and/or V)
- Be in Blackpink cover as Rosé (sorta optional but not really)
- ACHIEVED – Both goals were accomplished when I got cast as Rose in our cover of Ice Cream with Seoula
- Launch channel w/ Blessie
- ACHEIVED – We not only launched a channel and put out content consistently, we also branched out to IG, FB, and TikTok, which took off in the later part of the year
- Launch podcast! (name, brand, website, hosting, equipment)
- Publish 12 interviews with various guests
- Not achieved – Got held up by other projects, but the two things I need to do are to pull the trigger on hosting, and then creating artwork.
- Weekly standup shows (perform 50 times)
- Not achieved – The pandemic closed this down for part of the year, but then I was able to get in 7-8 open mics before it closed again. But it was great practice doing open mics in the park outside
- Weekly improv classes
- Not achieved – this got derailed by the pandemic. But as things open up again, hopefully classes will be available
- Join IrvineCity Improv troupe (stretch goal)
- Not achieved – again, derailed by the pandemic and lockdowns
- 6-figure net worth
- ACHIEVED – believe it or not, the economic crash during and subsequent recovery did wonders for my IRA and overall net worth. I actually surpassed this goal by a significant amount because of it.
- Start real estate license
- Not achieved – this was pushed back, definitely a lower priority
- Own property (or at least have the process officially started)
- Not achieved – I didn’t push forward on the process but I was able to save up a decent amount for a mortgage down payment.
- 90% plant-based diet by end of 2020
- Not achieved – I started to meal prep again, and although I cut out a good amount of meat, I’m probably closer to 60% at the moment. But I think this might be a longer-term goal, maybe over the course of 2-3 years
- Free-handstand for 30 seconds
- Almost achieved – I did complete a 30-day yoga handstand video course, which helped a lot with my balance. However, I was only able to get to about 10-15 second freestand hold
Goals for 2021
Theme for 2021: Make a Living off What I love
This one might be a stretch, but I want most of what I do this year to contribute towards my long-term goal of making enough money from my passion projects and being self-employed that I can give myself options of spending my time where I want.
Here are some ways I’m currently making money where I can potentially increase revenue, or new income streams I’m interested in developing this year:
- JR & Blessie Productions (TikTok Creator Fund, YouTube & FB ads, IG partnerships)
- YBC Book Summaries blog (donations, subscriptions, digital products)
- Dance Instruction & Coaching
- Coaching (habits, job/interview, life, relationships)
- Rental Property Investing (real estate)
- Podcasting (ad revenue / sponsorships)
- Day Trading
When making goals, I like to focus on actions to form good habits instead of specific outcomes out of my control. I figure if I can consistently do the right actions, the results I want will eventually happen.
JR & Blessie Productions
- 1 long-form video per month (12 total)
- 1 short-form video per day
- 1 collab with another creator per month
- 1 open mic per week (when available)
- 1 improv class per month (when available)
Physical & Nutrition
- 15-30 minute workout 5x per week
- Eat 2 prepped meals per day
- No meat 1-day per week
Career / Financial
- Create new income stream from either Life Coaching, Podcasting, or Trading
- Qualify for FHA Loan
- Launch podcast (hosting, artwork, video platform & editing)
- Publish 12 episodes with a guest for each
Similar to last year, I’ve created a separate addendum to this main post that covers my lessons learned for 2020. Click on the header above to be redirected.
Below are the main categories that I separated my extensive list of insights I’ve compiled for the year.
- Career & Success
- People & Relationships
- Health & Well-Being