2020

I’ve never been one for sentiment. Birthdays, Christmases, New Years were merely days on the calendar. A merry cheer but a hollowness inside – just another moment in your year’s journey. The new year has always signalled a fumbling with dates, rather than the celebration of resolutions. However, it does bring a new motto.


For now, I think it’d be useful to collect my thoughts as per LearningaDay tradition.

Part I – Look back

1. The Theme or peak moment:
a) 2019 was the year of dedication 
b) 2020 will be the year of opening horizons

Runners Up Theme or peak moment
a) 2019 was also the year of good habits
b) 2020 will also be the year of exploration

2. What were my 2 greatest successes/memories from 2019?

The internship was a buoyant success that changed your outlook on the future, but without doubt the two biggest memories are the beginning – LoLSoc O-Week, and the end – ITTA Open and Para Championships.

The first was painful but you’ve never been pushed as hard, never slept as little, never cried as much. It was about being aggressive and yet accommodating, a follower taking control of leadership.

The second was life-changing. The event itself was messy, frantic and empty. But the preparation for it was gruelling, rewarding – a whirlwind of growth and tests. Delivering presentations, planning volunteers, sorting through oh-too-many emails, balancing commitments and so much more. You’re where you are now because of those few hectic months.

Honourable mentions: Overloading trimesters, UNSW TTC Co-pres, hangouts and parties

3. What were my 2 biggest lessons learnt from 2019?

Moderation is key – in workload, in energy, in health. Pushing yourself or even indulging too much never ends well and you felt the very real impact of burnout this year.

A long road awaits – year after year, my perspective grows wider. On career, on people, on friends and most importantly, on possibilities. This year, I reached places I didn’t know existed.

4. Looking back, what were the top 2 factors I optimized for in my life and career in 2019? Did I optimize for the same things I will measure my life with? (Examples of what I optimized for could be money, learning, family, title, impact on company, fame, etc.)

In my pre-career phase, I optimised for learning.

Learning in terms of knowledge – I read and I listened to podcasts, I learnt more things.

Learning in terms of growth – I assumed leadership positions, I pushed myself to be more skilled and more capable.

Part II – Look forward
5. What themes am I thinking about for 2020? Are there any “process goals” I want to commit to?

2020 is my last year in undergraduate studies. With that, my sights are firmly planted on my professional future. Development and professional awareness (as dry as it sounds) is hopefully a theme of the next year. I’m also thinking about pushing into unexplored territory, of joining societies and doing more learning and more fun-ing than any of my past years.

Not towards these themes, but general process goals that I will maintain.

Health. (sleeping enough, exercising regularly, eating fine)

Learning. (reading, listening, learning more about psych)

Self-care. (catchups, bushwalks, me-time)

6. What skills do I want to develop in 2020 (professional and personal)? What actions am I going to take to develop them?

I engaged in it this year, but one priority is confident communication skills. Of being able to present and articulate things thoughtfully, with less of the nerves.

Another skill which is in constant development is maximising time usage. Much you have read, and much you have improved – but you still are far from meeting deadlines well and knuckling down.

Both can be targeted during my internship. But beyond those weeks, you will look for part-time experiences that go beyond the mundane. You’ll look to conferences and other learning opportunities.

7. Who/what were my top 2 sources of inspiration and learning in 2019? How do I plan to engage with them in 2020?

In taking up leadership roles, especially in ITTA – which exists beyond a single university – taught me much more than my early volunteering days. Leading and planning out large projects is far more educational than doing the grunt work.

Another great source of learning were podcasts and books. In terms of consumption time, they played a very minor role this year, but perhaps that itself speaks volumes of its effect on me. I learned more about myself, about controlling emotions, about perspectives, about deepening passions and much more.

Audiobooks and more regular reading will thus continue to be a focus. Joining the more established groups and societies fearlessly will also be a goal of mine.

8. Who are 2 people I’d like to stay in better touch with in 2020?

Controversy ahead.

The people I grew closer to, the people I met made my year. They made it fun, they made it bearable in tough times – growing the depth and number of friendships was a roaring success.

But no one stands out.

I want to stay close to family.

I want to meet new friends, and more that challenge me. Last year, more than others, I assumed a mentor and leadership figure. This year, I want to feel naive and young and small again. I want to grow closer to people who open the possibilities for me and make me question who I am and who I want to be.

The people of 2019 – I love you, you made it amazing, and of course I would want to stay close but 2020 promises to be a whole new crowd.

9. What have I got planned in 2020 to prioritize rest and renewal (e.g. holiday plans, weekend activities, hobbies)?

With the freeness of driving, endless options are open. For weekend trips. For food adventures. For exploration. You hope you take your chances while you still have the time.

Table Tennis remains a hobby you look forwards to, but more sporty pursuits could await.

You have no clues as of now, but solo travel is a thought on the forefront of your mind. If you arrange your timetable well and take advantage of holiday breaks, this year promises to be an exciting one.

10. What are the 1-3 most important core values or principles that form my personal culture? Will these change in 2020?

Commitment, curiosity and honesty. Three traits which have governed how I interact with others and how I approach situations.

I hope these core values remain strong in this new year. But for one, much of my curiosity has been rewarded. So beyond the open and eager mind of curiosity, I hope to be more of a driver and a go-getter. I want to not only be curious, but to chase my curiosities.


2019 was the year I dared to dream. You dreamt and reached heights never before seen.

2020 is going to be my turning point. This is the year I flourish.

Failed Success

84.55

It stings still. Just a number. But one which reaches excruciatingly close to prestige. The difference, in itself, is almost purely of name. There is little qualitative difference that distinguishes the 85s and the 84s, but yet a single number distinguishes proud achievement and aching emptiness.

You’d like to think the growth-oriented spark in you cares little. But you do, a lot. HD. It’s just a tagline. But at the same time, it’s a marker of achievement. A marker of academic diligence. You valued it much, and much it added to your self-value.

But then you think back. To the 42/45. To the poor IAs and consecutive all-nighters and academic negligence. To the darker days, an 84.55 is still a crowning glory. As a whole, your undergraduate journey may have ended on a poorer note, but you’re content with how this term went. In the face of challenge, you walked forward – and that’s all one can really hope for.

It’s a blemish perhaps. Something you can’t be particularly over – but that’s fine. A fine balance of peace and discontentment is optimal. For now, you should waste no more time regretting and think of your next chance to prove yourself.

Honours, watch out.

I’m coming.

Another update

Again, you sit on a narrow precipice, awaiting the plunge.

In two weeks, your perspective on life is going to be shaken. Your idea of work, of career, of time, of holidays, of free time, of routine and of life is going to be turned upside down.

Again, at a crossroad. But not one which diverges to two simple lanes, but a myriad of snaking paths leading to infinite outcomes.

Questions swarm your head. Are you going to do well in your exams? Are you going to fit in at work? Are you going to enjoy your work? Is it as much of a challenge as you see it?

The past few days have been unfruitful. But unfruitful with purpose. You’re not sure if that’s worse.

You just made a click. Uninstall. A promise to do better.

The haze. You always blame it. That which clouds your judgement. That which fogs up the road of success. Once confronted, you always turn. To easier paths. To distraction and instant gratification. These stale nights have numbered too many.

You require a sharper mind and a stronger spirit. To succeed in the coming few weeks, you will have to push yourself to places you haven’t been before and control your desires like never before.

But a journey of a thousand miles begins with a step.

And here’s that step.

The defence of laziness

“I didn’t study”

“I don’t really care about my marks”

Statements common and accepted within my high school environment. It was as if a lack of effort completely justifies a failure. Success without hard work was always far more celebrated than a failure with it.

And that makes sense. But what really seemed peculiar was when hard work took away from success. When someone’s achievements are seen less of as a function of how hard they worked.

In our contrary society today, talent and brilliance appear to shine far brighter than toil and work. We must succeed effortlessly and fail carelessly. Every modicum of effort is uncool.

But in reality, the fluke of genius is rare. It is those who toil who get places. Those who qualify their success with their hard study, those who do not make much of appearances, those who’d rather fail working hard than fail working not at all. It is those who really go that extra mile.

N.B. I think it’s time to start writing again.

 

Where am I now

You’re not sure how well you’ll do this term. You remember Danny cautioning you against overloading, “it’s suicide”. And with that, you felt something stir deep inside you. The dormant flames of competition. The primal pleasure of breaking norms and of defying expectation.

This was your chance to prove yourself.

And here you are in Week 5. A lot of things have gone well. Habits maintained, self-control exercised and a growing sense that you can reach your goals. But, in some ways, you are lacking. You’ve fallen short of so many targets: good sleep, regular blogging, morning exercise, studying ahead.

At its simplest, imagining the grind and bathing in the warmth of achievement fantasies is far more effortless a task than doing the work itself, than becoming a disciple of your studies.

I’m happy I’m checking in here though. You’re neither at the brink of success or failure but at a rather even standing. An early crossroad that could matter so much more later. Your exam wasn’t brilliant, you’re slightly behind in courses and your proactive quizzes and activities sit alone coldly. But you have faith. You’re still self-aware.

The choices you make determine your result. I mean, is it even worse to strive to ace your courses or should I simply to do just enough. Then again, are these the ravings of a lazy student, tired of the realities of hard work, or just the metacognitive musings of someone finding themselves.

Does it really matter what your number is at the end of this term. Taking the challenge itself is a choice you’re proud and still excited of. With the flurry of emotions at starting afresh dissolving, and the prospects of dedicated work setting in, it’s a dilemma you face.

Do you chase greatness or settle for excellence.

Can you even afford to settle?

As always, your faith in yourself is unwavering. You have, and always have had, the potential. It’s just a matter of actualising it.

Chase hard or fall into timeworn routines. It’s not some ultimatum – we’re hardly under pressure at the moment. But the question lies waiting for you, sometimes surfacing – a judgemental guardian. Every choice you make, every late night you take, every productive and unproductive decision – you are evaluating and moulding yourself.

You’re halfway in, and the end is far from the sight.

Can you handle the journey?

A habit

A habit takes regular and frequent reinforcements of behaviour to build over time. And still, it remains a dainty sandcastle – awaiting destruction at signs of stress or pressure or circumstances unexpected. When that fragile lifestyle structure is first breached, it’s too easy to let it collapse and to let good behaviours fade away. Similarly, it’s too easy to stop writing blog posts “in the interests of better sleep or better use of time”.

Realistically, it’s that dark wolf inside of you who’s responsible. The one representing greed, envy and laziness who breaks it all down. It’s the niggling voice of temptation that whispers sweet betrayal into your brain.

Habits like these, which seem so simple yet so elusive are one of the hardest to maintain. Writing is not exciting. Writing is not sexy. When you finish a workout, you feel the pain for hours on end and you have that mental contentment. When you finish a blog post, you see extra words on a page filled with many extra words already. Writing and your skill is not physically tangible. It’ll be a niche situation indeed where you can noticeably recognise a shift in your writing.

Writing is not exhilarating. Writing doesn’t give a meaty boost to the IQ. Writing is slow, and meticulous, thoughtful yet erratic. I continue to write because I can and because I know I will always gain from it. Keep it up, bud.

On starting uni again

You’ve done more this semester than almost every one prior. You try to engage your curiosity, read more and think more. And you have. You’ve done more and tried to be more but in many ways, you’ve fell short.

Procrastination sets in. Yearning nags at you. Mindless browsing ensures. Seedling habits crumple. And the numbing ennui sets in.

You find that morning-motivated plans rarely hold weight in the familiar comfort of the home. It is good that there is some measure of self-awareness, known incompetence is a far easier beast to dealt with than unknown incompetence.

Much as the tournament went, you’re going better than expected but the potential is so high – there really is a growing sense of faith in yourself this semester, you’ve already surprised yourself in a number of ways.

The weekend promises a time for more reflection and an opportunity to reconfigure your priorities for the upcoming week.

It’s laughable, really. All these philosophical brewings for simple tasks. Ostensibly, priorities and nuances of your mental state don’t matter. Just do it, right? Just watch a lecture, finish the reading, begin on your work.

Except, words are always cheaper than actions. Cheaper to produce, cheaper to carry through, cheaper – so you can throw them with abandon.

Making the right choices is no simple choice. Only upon personal experience do I appreciate the effort invested into others’ routines. Studying, revising, training, gymming – appreciating the rewards and envisioning the process are so many steps removed from action.

The start has not been easy. And not to be melodramatic, the journey looks difficult this semester but your belief is only building.

In you, the kindle has just been added.

It’s time to see how bright you flare.