Ahh, the new year approacheth. Normally, the holidays offer a fantastic opportunity for introspection, cogitating, and reminiscing. What a wonderful time for deep, inner review and realignment for the future.
….but not today.
Instead, I’m writing this to brag and showboat – although I apologize in advance for my cockiness, when you’re living in your friend’s attic and all your money is in a torn envelope, I think you get to talk some head when all is said and done.
2011 was easily the craziest, stupidest, and most-challenging year in my life. All the self-doubt, the emotional and financial struggles, the perpetual rejection from companies; and yet, through all that, I still managed to kick it’s glutes.
Here’s how I did it:
1. I Started Doing What I Love To Do
Personal Training, period.
It’s a long story as to why I waited so long, but then again – why does anyone wait so long? It took me a while, but I finally made the switch and never looked back. Even as an unemployed personal trainer, I still love the field and all there is to learn from it. I enjoy helping clients establish better habits and achieve their fitness goals – sometimes it doesn’t seem like work.
Currently, I consult two clients and have thoroughly enjoyed the experience. It’s a blast to help them, and it always inspires me.
They improve me more than I could ever improve them.
2. I Stopped Doing What I Don’t Love To Do
Teaching English abroad, period. And working for corporations with poor ethics and work environments, double period.
Now, I didn’t loathe my job as a teacher in Taiwan – honestly, it was relatively easy, paid a decent salary, and provided extremely light and flexible hours. But it didn’t fill me with joy or represent a deep passion or hobby of mine – it merely paid the bills in a way that didn’t devour my life outside of work. But I knew if I kept going, it would have been harder to flex my muscles and transition into something new.
I couldn’t continue to drain my time and energy on a life that wasn’t fulfilling.
So I went to Australia.
In September, this mindset convinced me to leave after less-than-two weeks at a famous organization because I disagreed with their rigid, close-minded culture, which I plan to discuss in a future article. A hint about the company: they are generally referred to by their three-letter acronym, they host the Superbowl, and they pay Tom Brady’s bills.
Oh, and I made a Memento Mori chart, which revolutionized my life. Thanks Craig!
3. I Turned Lemons Into a Lemonade Franchise
Making the best of a difficult situation became an everyday thing while in Sydney.
[You can read about my debacle here.]
I got squeezed after working three business days for one company. I worked full-time, five days a week for free for another company in the hopes of converting an unpaid internship into a paid position. I called clients, connected with other representatives, picked up sushi for my managers, built spreadsheets, went to WC Penfold to buy supplies, and performed any random tasks they could think of. Suffice to say, it did not end well.
However, I constantly strove to maintain my emotions, understand the situation from a broader perspective, and mentally unattach myself from outcomes. All the adversity of 2011 offered an enormous opportunity for inner exercise and practice.
During the weekend before the company I worked at gave me their final decision, I conversed with a friend, and he asked me:
“So what are you going to do this weekend?”
“Well… I need to get to the point – mentally – where I’m okay with either a ‘yes’ or a ‘no.’ I mean, don’t get me wrong: it would be awesome if they said ‘yes.’ But it wouldn’t make me happy… I would be excited… and thrilled. But it wouldn’t make me happy… because I’m already happy.”
How existential can you get?
“When there is no enemy within, the enemies outside cannot hurt you.”
– African Proverb
4. I Got Bigger
Bigger, not taller (sadly). I ended 2010 with a stomach flu that landed me in an Emergency Room of a Taiwanese hospital, so I probably started 2011 at a buck-twenty-five (57 kg). My apartment resembled a wasteland of used tissues and empty bottles of Gatorade and Pocari Sweat.
It wasn’t until late-January when I decided to put some meat on my bones and get stronger. I targeted 68kg (150 lbs) by April with a steady diet of good food, whole milk, and a lot of heavy powerlifts.
And I crushed it.
My second bulking phase (I never liked that term) occurred in August, shortly after I returned to the States. My goal was to hit 75kg (165lbs) by September.
And I crushed it. Again.
People wondered why I did such a thing; my mother, for one, was horrified (but accepting of my earrings?). Well, when you live all your life ridiculously underweight, it presents a different perspective when you are big. Moreover, I wanted gain experience on how to bulk since I already learned how to cut back in 2010, with myself as the guinea pig of course.
5. I Didn’t Take ‘No’ For An Answer
Google Adwords banned me in early-February. It took me over nine months of poking and prodding to finally get the words I so badly wanted to hear:
I am happy to inform you that your account ***-***-**** is no longer
As I have mentioned in the previous email I have escalated your issue to
the specialist team and got your account unsuspended.
Thank you and have a wonderful rest of your day!! :)
I think I played “Song 2″ by Blur on a constant loop that night.
I could have easily given up and resigned to not using Google Adwords in the future, but I redesigned my website again and again.
Moreover, when the first company in Australia squeezed me out, I could have given up. After the umpteenth company said “no”, I could have given up again. But I couldn’t quit. I thought, “I came this far already… why give up now?”
“A quitter never wins and a winner never quits.”
– Napoleon Hill
6. I Connected With Some Awesome Professionals And Experts
Most Los Angeles residents I know don’t get star-struck. Or at least – if they do – they won’t bother the poor guy. We know they live here, frequent the same the places we frequent, and buy cheap underwear just like the rest of us. And sure, I’ve seen/talked with some celebrities, too.
7. I Never Stopped Learning
And I don’t mean just learning from mistakes – I mean seeking knowledge from people who’ve done it before.
I read. A lot. Seneca once wrote that it’s better to have a smaller library that you constantly study as opposed to countless books in which you only absorb a small amount. Agreeing with that logic, I continuously read a few inspiring books that guided and developed me. In no particular order, my faves of 2011 were:
Never Eat Alone
The Seven Habits of Highly-Effective People
The Education of Millionaires
Some of my favorite, everlasting memories in Taipei and Sydney were aimlessly walking around, stopping at comfortable spots to dig into a good book.
As for my career, I poured a lot of effort into studying as many articles, books, YouTube videos, and DVDs as I could. It cost a pretty penny, but it was absolutely worth it. Also, other countries don’t have pennies, so that too.
8. I Tried My Hand At Entrepreneurship
There’s something about grabbing your career and financial security with your own hands and trailblazing a fresh path. At one point in 2011, I considered opening a gym in Taipei. World Gym, an enormous commercial gym, basically controls the city with their many locations, but I thought launching a gym predicated on real fitness could compete (imagine a gym with at least one power rack and Olympic-lifting platform!).
Unfortunately, it never passed the research phase: to run a business in Taiwan, you must pass a test to get a license, and my Chinese wasn’t good enough.
In addition, I designed a website (not this one) as a platform to launch an e-book. Because I lacked any webpage experience, it took an entire month of daily, committed effort to complete. Then, I spent another week to learn about pay-per-click advertising and SEO optimization.
After three days, it got banned.
Overall, however, it was an awesome experience. Although I didn’t succeed, I still boldly attempted a life path that would have given me greater joy and an opportunity to pursue more dreams with an automated source of income. I also developed a small, but decent, amount of webdesign skills, which would later come in handy.
9. I Met A Ton Of Great Friends
I met a lot of awesome people in 2009 and 2010, too. Some of them influenced me to become better. Some of them changed my life. And even more of them put up with my crap and supported me through thick and thin (sorry/thanks guys!). But 2011 offered a different perspective because – at times – I so desperately needed their help. And they gave it…. repeatedly.
Sometimes without question. Other times, with a question and a smile. And that’s when I truly grasped that the generosity of friends, and even random strangers, help to make life that much more magical. Meeting those awesome souls was one of the best and most endearing ways I crushed 2011.
– Fin –
So those are the nine reasons why I crushed the year 2011. Now, before I relax with a delicious slice of humble pie, let me ask: did you crush 2011 as well? And how did you do it? Is that going to translate into an even-better 2012?
Happy New Year!!