2020 In Review - Solving For Productivity
Every year around my birthday, I like to reflect on how my year went, what went well, what didn't, and what I'm going to do differently moving forward. For the first time, I'll be publishing these insights out loud in hopes that others can also learn from my experiences. Thank you for reading, and I hope you get value from my sharing!
2020 has been a turbulent year, to say the least. From a global pandemic, wildfires on the west coast, and conflicts across the world, one can reasonably claim that this was a . However, I would like to propose that 2020 was also a year of hope. It was a year that we saw tremendous personal resilience and growth as a result of adversity, and a year where many of us found ways to come together, even in a divided world.
I believe we grow the fastest when we deal with problems, especially those that challenge our fundamental desires to belong with society and achieve self-reliance. Thankfully, we are never alone on our growth journeys - our problems are often remarkably similar, which offers us the opportunity to share solutions and help one other.
Through my experiences this year I can confidently say, community is the answer.
The Desire To Belong
In Singapore, COVID-19 safety distancing measures were in effect since March 2020, with stay-at-home orders fully enforced by April. That meant that for 300 days in 2020, I was working 12 hours a day alone from home, with only online interactions to keep me company. What was interesting was that even though we had so many opportunities to connect with our friends and family online, it always felt like the interactions were different - and it brought on an overwhelming feeling of loneliness.
Observing that my loved ones also felt this way and a similar sentiment online, I dove headfirst into researching what was missing in our interactions, and what could we do to build a deeper sense of belonging with each other - a "community feeling".
Community is Family
I've always held a different definition of what family means to me. For me, family is anybody who cares a lot for you, and you for them. Family members support your growth, are genuinely happy for your success, and learn together with you in times of failure. There's a truly magical experience when you have such people in your lives because it is in these environments that you are able to give freely to another and explore how you can be helpful to others.
I also like this definition because it expands the scope of who can be a family member and instills the belief that you can always grow your family - switching our mindset on interpersonal relationships from scarcity to abundance. This gives us the courage to choose our family members and distance ourselves from those who do not have our best interests in mind.
So, noting that our desire as social creatures is to find a tribe, it's highly important to spend time with the right group of people. You are the average of your 5 closest friends, I've always prioritized surrounding myself with growth-minded individuals who were fascinated with learning and seekers of truth - and most importantly, able and willing to embrace discomfort for the sake of long-term growth.
Finding My Tribe
To be honest, I've always had trouble finding my tribe. When exploring various growth-minded and innovative communities, I've found that many people held too much importance over ego and competition. While building my startup, I found myself part of various blockchain communities; where the technologists share a wonderful vision of a decentralized future that benefits the 99%, but their good intentions were often overshadowed by greed from the financial incentives in the ecosystem.
Hit with the deadly combination of feeling isolated, dealing with toxic people, and unable to connect with loved ones, my mental health was rapidly deteriorating and I knew I needed to take immediate action.
The Co-x3 Family
So with a pandemic bringing many of us online, it was time to look beyond my immediate surroundings to find my tribe. I needed to build an online community of givers that are passionate about productivity, growth, and learning - and eager to support each other in our growth journeys. I subscribe to the idea that if you can who you are and what you care about, the internet will connect you to people that find value in what you're sharing.
I started with the goal to build a space where we could have meaningful discussions about productivity, growth, and learning. We began with , which became daily, and eventually, impromptu calls and discussions during our breaks on how we can live more fulfilled lives. This helped us all achieve more in our day-to-day lives, as we were expanding our minds with novel ideas and great company.
We were building a space where we could thrive.
Through these meaningful discussions, I realized that the missing piece in typical conversations was a lack of intentionality and deeper connection - there may be a lot of time spent talking, but the intentionality in truly understanding each other's motivations, purpose, and desires was missing. So how can we solve this problem?
Systems For A Better Life
The strongest communities provide mental models that help their members successfully navigate the world. Our family was built on the foundation of systems that help us take control of our lives by offering us intense clarity over what matters most, and help us find the joy in living. Most importantly, having common frameworks facilitate deeply meaningful discussions where we can drastically improve ourselves and work together to positively impact the world.
The most successful people in the world are able to take the knowledge they've learned and create systems that amplify their productivity and enable others to achieve similar outcomes. Over the course of my life, I've learned that my superpower is in systems thinking - breaking down both conventional wisdom and novel experiences to create actionable steps to follow. This has been beneficial for me in not only growing my company to , but also in being as helpful as I can to my family and friends as they navigate through different stages of life.
One big hack that has boosted my productivity has been to treat life like a game. Throughout my childhood, I would spend thousands of hours on my favorite RPG titles, leveling up and slaying dragons. As I grew up, I wondered why I would spend so much time and effort on improving my virtual avatar, but yet not expend similar efforts to level up in real life through additional academic or extra-curricular pursuits.
Fascinated to learn how our brain works and how we can hack it to do what we want, I went to university to pursue a double major in Neuroscience and Psychology, with a minor in Physiology to understand what's really going on inside our minds. After years of research and experimentation, I found myself able to pursue self-development with the same passion I had while playing games, and most importantly, with joy and satisfaction.
Sharing Is Caring
In late 2019, I came across Notion, and with it, built to truly transform my life into a game; turning my to-do list into meaningful quests that drove me closer towards my goals, and introducing multiplayer for personal development. In games, having companions helps you push through and assist each other, and I wanted to bring that to our daily lives.
Over the course of the last year, I've shared dozens of systems to help us , , , , , , and much more. I believe that creating systems is one of the best ways you can contribute to others because you help those like yourself learn actionable ways to reproduce your success. It's been a wonderful experience being able to share , and since then, we get together to build new systems to take action on our learning.
If I had to summarize the last few years of my life, I was solving for productivity. I knew that I, like many of my friends and family, had the willpower and drive to accomplish amazing things - as long as we had the right mental models that helped us reframe what work is and accelerate our output. I wanted to make sure we engaged in meaningful productivity and were working with intention.
My life has been drastically enriched by being in a community of like-minded people who are interested to pursue life's deeper meanings because we constantly engage in meaningful discussions that help us level up. We learn faster together by sharing our learnings paired with actionable systems to follow. And most importantly, I've been able to truly connect with those around me through the use of our shared systems.
Family without Borders
Wanting to bring the benefits of the online space we've built into our offline environments as well, we started a series of co-living spaces around the world where we would be highly motivated to do our best work, surrounded by housemates who care. It's been a beautiful space where we have been able to share, laugh, love, and cry together. It's helped all of us thrive during a time of uncertainty and discomfort, and bring us closer together.
A Journey Of Self-Actualization
While building the community this year, I unexpectedly stumbled upon various life truths that have fundamentally changed my life.
Acceptance - To accept myself and others.
Purpose - To know what I'm meant to do.
Peace - To appreciate and love every experience.
What I realized was that our systems were helping us self-actualize at tremendous speeds. By having intense clarity over your areas of competence, you can learn to accept yourself. By having a clear and consistent success plan, you are able to find your purpose and take action. By having consistent review cycles, you are able to be at peace because you have your life under control.
Thus, my purpose is to provide knowledge, action, and community to those would like to embark on the journey of self-actualization and share our growth journey.
Happiness Comes From Community
I've been pursuing happiness my whole life, and for a long time, I believed that if I was able to solve every problem that came my way, I would eventually be happy. The second big discovery was that true happiness comes from a sense of belonging - which is achieved through self-acceptance and contribution to others.
In 2021, I'll be expending my full effort to assist my friends, family, and community who are on the journey of self-actualization to make a positive impact on the world by doing good together.
To put it in a game analogy, I'm building an environment where gear up with the best equipment to quest together and slay world bosses. We'll be a force of good on the world, have lots of fun in the journey, and never struggle alone again.
Lastly, I've always been thinking deeply about what we should call each other in the community. I consistently switch between friends or family. But what I've learned is that we are comrades - "those who have the will to help each other in times of need."