2016 has been a fantastic year of learning for me, with progress on multiple fronts and countless learnings in each area of life. While New Year’s resolutions are popular and a step in the right direction, I see even more value in critically reflecting on the past year and what I could do differently. I usually write a detailed, private, post-game analysis of the year in how I’ve performed and this has been tremendously useful for me across the years, though this format isn’t well suited for a blog post.
After enjoying James Clear’s public Annual Reviews for the last few years and watching his progress, I’ve found his public format useful in being calmly accepting of both the highlights and lowlights, as well as adding personal accountability through his readers. Hence I thought I’d use his format of answering three questions as inspiration for my Annual Review, and I’d encourage everyone to do something similar (publicly or privately) if you haven’t already:
- What went well this year?
- What didn’t go so well this year?
- What am I working toward?
1. What went well this year?
Physical Health. Regular exercise has been my one consistent strength since high school, one that makes me feel I have superpowers. My optimised routine consists of alternating between a 20 minute run one day and sets of pull-ups, push-ups and planks on the other day, totalling 30 minutes/day including shower time, with no time wasted on transport. My level of focus, achievements and satisfaction in life have are all highly correlated with the regularity of my exercise, and any periods of minor injury or disruption to my routine have a rather outsized negative impact on me. While exercise has an enormous range of benefits in our otherwise sedentary lifestyles, my personal reasons for exercise in order of importance to me are the short-term mental clarity/productivity, longer term health benefits and keeping me in shape – the short term benefits are more useful in motivating me than the more abstract longer term benefits.
Learning new skills. Having significantly restricted myself in 2015 from new experiences for the sake of maximising work output, I realised I had fallen into the trap of working harder not smarter. The “I don’t have time for this” mentality can be very tempting, but in 2016, I challenged myself to balance work life with experiences that would enhance my output rather than conflict with it, such as learning to surf and skateboard, while progressing from a beginner to intermediate in rollerblading and snowboarding – with some nice moves coming along. I found learning through these physical experiences a great model for visualising and optimising the learning process in my professional life, that have counterintuitively enhanced my learning rather than distracting me.
Blog publicity. This was both a positive and a negative (more written about this below), but there was no doubt my blog got the public’s attention this year with my article featuring on Stuff reaching over 20,000 readers and the Stuff Facebook Post alone getting over 3,000 reactions and 1,000 comments, excluding all of the Stuff comments, response blog posts and their respective comments. I’ve learnt a lot from this experience and hope to build on public discussions further when an opportunity next presents itself.
Medicine. Having started this blog at a time when I wasn’t enjoying Medicine, things have significantly changed since then, where I now love both Medicine and Business for the different types of stimulation they provide. It is an incredibly gratifying feeling to be able to quickly integrate myself and learn from such highly capable teams all for the sake of the best patient care, and I can’t wait to help patients even more directly as a trainee intern in the coming year.
Crimson Education. I have been impressed by so many of the people I have worked with in the past, yet Crimson still managed to surprise me by how capable and ambitious the whole team was. The culture of growth and moving fast whilst remaining collaborative is highly ingrained in the Crimson ethos, to an extent I have never experienced before, and one that constantly challenges me to work harder, aim bigger and work with purpose. The environment at Crimson Education and MedView has single-handedly been the biggest positive contributor to my work ethic in 2016.
2. What didn’t go so well this year?
Diplomacy. In 2016 I decided to live the entrepreneurial adage of taking action right away and later “asking for forgiveness rather than asking for permission”. While this mantra was helpful in some ways, my lack of experience caused a number of unnecessary tensions and conflicts to arise in 2016, with one public example being my aforementioned $3/day blog post which was quickly written and sent to the media as an afterthought without going through rigorous editing and critical review as it should have – leading to a backlash that required a follow-up article to clarify my intentions. While the idea of progressing at a fast pace is still a good one, many of those who practice this advice have more wisdom and experience than me to cause less harm. I’ve learnt a lot in 2016 about where I can move fast and where I should be more cautious, and balancing this will hopefully lead to less unnecessary conflicts in 2017.
Administrative Planning. My administrative organisational skills left plenty to be desired this year, where it has potentially costed me in Scholarships and different experiences. In applying for my Medical Elective abroad this year, I was initially split between the USA and Japan, deciding to apply to both. While I had gone most of the way in the US medical school applications, the paperwork eventually became too burdensome to complete, leaving Japan as the only completed option. Granted, I may have still chosen Japan having both options available to me, but I didn’t follow my own mantra of keeping all doors open until making the final decision to keep it objective instead of following the “easier path”. Given that this deficiency is mostly due to how much it bores me, with no one to keep me accountable, I plan to share key administrative deadlines with close friends/family to hold me accountable so I don’t miss important applications like this out of sheer laziness.
Medicine. Again this was both a positive and negative, in that while I thoroughly enjoyed Medicine and started off strong in 2016 with regular daily study before I went home, this gradually faded as the year progressed and I didn’t finish as strongly as I started. A combination of immersing myself in the teams I work with, and maintaining regular study as I did earlier in 2016 will help change this, as will surrounding myself with other motivated friends/colleagues who challenge me to study more.
Relationships. While this was an area I consciously set as a priority this year, it became far more difficult to execute than I anticipated. I initially realised that many of the people I wanted to build deeper relationships with were also busy, and that I’d need to intentionally schedule time to socialise with them rather than leaving it to spontaneous chance as I previously have. Even though I now have no problems drinking coffee, I still didn’t find cafes (the de facto form catch-ups) the most enjoyable way to socialise, and would rather connect with people over experiences like surfing, kayaking, rollerblading etc. to make it a more memorable social experience. The few times this worked out it’s been a blast, and I look forward to doing more of this in 2017.
3. What am I working toward?
2016 has been a year of learning for me, even more so than previous years, and I have no doubt 2017 will capitalise on this foundation. Here’s an outline of my priorities for 2017 rather than my full set of goals.
I’ll be graduating from Medicine at The University of Auckland this year assuming everything goes to plan, and will be doubling down on working as a Trainee Intern at the Hospital while expanding Crimson’s MedView brand even further. These should both keep me busy and highly satisfied.
Physical health will continue to be a priority, with no changes planned for my base exercise regime other than documenting my exercise to keep track of how closely I’ve followed my alternate day schedule. Complementing this will be a combo of trying new outdoor experiences while building on skills I’ve already developed in 2016.
I also look forward to building stronger relationships with my closest friends and family, while still affording time to meet new people and expand my circles – ideally with more of these in experiences other than simply at cafes or dining.
Thanks for reading and a special thank you to everyone who’s shared feedback on my writing this year – bring on 2017 and let’s make sure to keep advancing each other forward to an unforgettable year.