2021 Life Lessons: Success, Relationships, and Content Creation

What 2021 has taught me about success, people, my well-being, and social media.

Celebrated 3 decades alive with 5 of my biggest life lessons on my Instagram

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. A couple years ago, I started the tradition of separating this into a separate post from the main 2021 Year In Review post.

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

  • People & Relationships
  • Career & Success
  • Health & Well-Being
  • Social Media & Content Creation

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

Fill the love tanks of your loved one’s loved ones. It’s a triple win – What I mean by this is take care of the people whom your loved ones care about. If you have a partner, take care of their parents, be kind to their best friends, etc. Not only does this behavior improve your relationship with the recipient of your kindness, but it also improves your relationship with your loved one. Lastly, it expands and reinforces the positive characteristic of being a loving person within yourself.

If you want to improve your relationships with others, adapt your energy like water, but stand firm on your principles like earth (ATLA reference) – Adapting your energy and approach based on the other person helps them be more receptive to you. All of the positive intent in the world will not do you any good if your energy closes off the other person to your efforts. Listen and be receptive to how their energy is, and adapt yourself to improve your effectiveness. Equally as important, stay true to your values and principles. Make it clear to them that you know who you are. This integrity will build trust, and trust is necessary to develop an authentic and deep relationship with others.

Before taking action, ask yourself “Is what I’m planning on doing considered ‘loving’?” – When you’re unsure about the next course of action in regards to your relationship with someone, this is a great question to ask. It’ll help guide you to the next best step. Always act with kindness towards others and you can never go wrong.

β€œOnce we remove our expectations of someone to create happiness for us, and DETACH from them (but still enjoy them immensely), only then can we truly love someone.” – From the book Awareness. This is something to always remember. Expectations will only deteriorate your relationship. Removing expectations and imparting gratitude will allow us to fully love another person.

One of the most important things about building a healthy relationship is how you face the challenges together and how you treat each other when hurt by the other person – Rough patches, disagreements, challenges, and hurting each other is inevitable in any relationship (romantic, familial, platonic, etc). How do you treat the other person when they hurt you? Do you approach difficulties as adversaries or as teammates? Figuring out and committing to a strategy in advance will better set you up for success rather than being reactive when either or both sides are hurting.

Clear boundaries will strengthen any relationship – This was the key point of the book Boundaries, which fundamentally shifted the way I thought about relationships. It may seem counterintuitive, but drawing clear and firm lines between you and your loved ones is essential in improving any relationship. When you know where you end and another person begins, only then can a relationship flourish.

Career & Success

Figure out what your boss wants and exceed their expectations to gain trust, flexibility, and freedom – Over the years, I’ve had easy bosses, difficult bosses, and everything in between. The most important thing is to clearly understand their expectations and consistently deliver against them. This allows you to gain trust and therefore more freedom, or rather, less oversight. This makes doing your job a lot less stressful when your boss isn’t always looking over your shoulder because they trust you.

Every experience you have can be leveraged to gain more skills down the line, even if you don’t love or enjoy what you’re doing right now – This lesson is very apparent when I look back on all of the companies I’ve worked at where the conditions were less than ideal. Almost every time, the more difficult the situation, the more I grew from having to adapt. The skills I gained from those challenging circumstances helped me when looking for new work. Not only did I become more confident in my abilities, but I knew that I was prepared for the next thing. It’s like that saying I learned from an old boss, “smooth seas never make great sailors.”

When you’re someone’s boss, always be empathetic and supportive of their success – In one of my old companies, I had to tell my supervisor that I accepted a position elsewhere. It was a great move for me career-wise, but my boss was less than supportive of me. He tried to hard sell me to stay, which immediately turned me off and further affirmed that my decision to leave was the right one. I already knew at this point that the work environment was very toxic. Had he been more happy and supportive of my move, I would have been more willing to maintain the relationship and help him out as much as I could after I left.

It’s always better to be proactive and move away from what you don’t want rather than be reactive when things inevitably go wrong – Not saying that things will always go wrong, but when the signs are all pointing towards it, you should always take action sooner than later. Oftentimes, I see people get caught when sh** hits the fan and they don’t have backup plans or an exit strategy. Or they’re not prepared for the next thing before their current thing runs dry. Will Smith talked about this in his memoir Will, but you should always make moves towards your future goals rather than wait for things to get so bad that you’re forced to react.

When hiring people, fully understand that experience =/= expertise – I’ve interviewed dozens of people for my same position I do, and this point is so clear. Some of the people I’ve interviewed seem amazing on paper. They have 10+ years of industry experience above me, have all the certifications and educational credentials, and have worked for large companies. However, during the interview, I could immediately tell they were not qualified for the position. Just because you’ve been doing something for a long time, doesn’t mean you’re good at it. Another aspect of this is being articulate. You need communication skills to convey to the interviewer that you have the right qualifications.

No matter the upside, don’t play Russian roulette – This was another great point I learned from the book The Psychology of Money. It’s a great lesson on life and decision-making that can also be applied to relationships. In essence, don’t play a game in which the downside/risk is not something you can afford to happen. Similar to how the downside of Russian roulette is killing yourself, don’t make money decisions that can potentially wipe you out. Don’t do something that would jeopardize an important relationship no matter how extraordinary the upside may be. This is similar to when people lie or hide something instead of telling the truth and acting with integrity. They think they can have their cake and eat it too, but the risk is never worth the reward.

Health & Well-Being

“For we walk by faith, not sight” – 2 Corinthians 5:7 – Probably my favorite bible verse and something I try and live by in every aspect of my life. Whether it is health, finances, career, relationship, etc, I always try my best to give it to God and not worry about it. As I learned, when you worry, you suffer twice. But you also cannot have worry and faith at the same time. When you have faith, your worries go away. Most importantly, having faith means you’re relying on God to provide for you because you know His power is greater than anything you or anyone else can achieve alone. I’ve found that the more faith I have in an area of my life, the more blessings I come across in that area. It’s not always easy, but it has never failed me.

Prep/cook healthy food that you’re excited to eat – This is so important if you’re looking to create a meal plan that’s sustainable. Because nutrition is so important to your overall health and body composition, getting to a healthy weight necessitates eating food that is both healthy and delicious. If you don’t enjoy the food you make, you won’t last long eating it consistently.

“The opposite of depression is expression” – This is a fantastic take away from the phenomenal book The Gift, which I read this year. Whether it’s from a friend or from yourself, expression is a good thing. Don’t try to repress your own emotions or downplay the emotions of others. When they express themselves, it’s a necessary release that allows one to eventually move forward and heal. When people choose to bottle it up, it prevents them from moving on and keeps them stuck. Even though it hurts to see someone cry, it’s a necessary part of the process that we shouldn’t be afraid of.

“Thankfully, we are judged on our actions, not our thoughts” – A great point made by Will Smith in his book Will. We need to give ourselves grace when we have a thought that doesn’t represent our best selves. What’s more important is what we DO and the actions we take.

Social Media & Content Creation

Embrace the 80/20 rule in growth – One thing I’ve learned from growing our social media following this year is the power of the 80-20 Rule aka Power Law aka Pareto Principle. A small handful of our videos have clearly generated the most growth for our account. Similarly, only 1 or 2 features of our content on large accounts like Buzzfeed have generated huge traffic for our accounts.

You need both quality and quantity to grow your account – As Gary Vaynerchuk always says, you cannot control quality because that’s based on how other people perceive your content. However, if you produce a high volume of content with the intent of slowly refining, experimenting, and improving your content, you’ll achieve quality a lot faster and more often.

Find what’s working and keep doing that. However, do experimental content as well in parallel – We’ve found a lot of success and engagement with seeing which content works and doing similar types of content. For example, we found that filipino jokes and couple comedy categories have worked best for us and now define our channel. At the same time, we aren’t afraid to experiment with new ideas and trends to keep our channel fresh. Even if experimental content doesn’t do well, it keeps us open to potentially benefitting from the next big trend.

Thank you 2021 for all the Lessons Learned

This past year was challenging yet humbling. It’s always important to see these challenges as opportunities to get closer to the person we want to be. I’m grateful for the lessons and excited to become even wiser by next year.


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