I had bought a Muji diary last year, and largley used it in 2023 to plan out my week and year.

This is how it looks like:

Chronological 2023 Highlights

In terms of the chronological order, these were the things that happened:

  1. January 2023
    1. Did my first freelance training (with Singapore global network)
    2. Attended my first iOS conference: got completely lost with Swift code!
    3. Celebrated dear’s 40th birthday: we went cycling. :)
    4. Started 100 days of SwiftUI: never finished it…
  2. February 2023
    1. Started CIID Open Research project
    2. Celebrated birthday dinner with parents
    3. moved house to Le Reve!
  3. March 2023
    1. Daywa workshop
    2. Date day with wife on 8 March
    3. Ajahn Brahmali retreat on 10-11
    4. Went with MIL and wife to Gardens by the Bay
    5. 30-31 March - training with NUS TTI
    6. 30 March: Grandma passed away in the early morning (4am)
  4. April 2023
    1. Dealing with Grandma’s wake and funeral
    2. Korea trip (until early May): climbed Bukhansan for almost 5+ hours (where dear fell down, and got pissed at me for suggesting we continue on), went to Busan and met Soo Jung (who kidnapped us and brought us all around by car)
  5. May 2023
    1. Focused on Gallaugher’s YouTube course, and also started on Launch School prep
    2. Started Dhama Journeys Research
    3. Did 42 online game
    4. Chatted with Chi Ling and Lilian on facilitation design for July
    5. Chatted with Say re Tsao Foundation project
    6. Helped out with SBM Vesak Day
  6. June 2023
    1. Continued with Dharma Journeys Research
    2. Ajahn Brahm Executive Retreat (Phuket, Westin Siray Bay). Went with Wife
    3. Helped parents move things back from Bedok to Cashew
    4. Visited Ajahn Ganha (LIFE CHANGING)
    5. Continued with Launch School Ruby programme
    6. Utama dry-run with facilitators
  7. July 2023
    1. Utama event facilitation
    2. met Jawn Lim at Singapore Productivity Centre’s Train the Trainer
    3. Pre-Piscine 100 at 42 event: met Nat, Mr T for the first time
    4. Sis family visited Singapore (until early Aug)
    5. Started 42 Singapore Piscine II
    6. Loss of hearing on 24 July 7pm, in living room: Greg was crying and was suddenly muted. Rest of week was busy with medical appointments….
  8. August 2023
    1. Busy with Piscine, until 18 Aug: final exam was 8 hours. Finished at 7 hr mark (pain!!), and surprised self with score (60%)
    2. Spent rest of August resting, catching up with people
  9. September 2023
    1. 1 Sep: voted for Tharman!
    2. 5 Sep: 42 Singapore kickoff. Helped out with ushering VIPs, including Brian Tan and Kaif
    3. Spent rest of Sept completing libft. Was feeling down and out due to the change in core: now it was suddenly MUCH more difficult than Piscine!
    4. 29 Sept, left for Perth. Took train to Serpentine (train won’t run again until 2025!), and walked from Serpentine to Jhana Grove. Won’t do that again, as I couldn’t do walking meditation properly for a FULL WEEK.
  10. October 2023
    1. Silent retreat from 2-22 Oct. Came out on 23 Oct. Silence is golden.
  11. November 2023
    1. 27 Oct till 4 Nov, Bodhinyana Singapore retreat. Had to surrender phone, helped out with retreat. Midweek, all cooks down with Covid. Then Christina was down, and Chee Huey and I had to help with breakfast prep (esp. after Sok Yeong was ALSO down with Covid!)
    2. 4 Nov, Bodhinyana Singapore retreat ended. Got back phones, …and then had to deal with bushfire!
    3. 6 Nov, took ride to Serpentine. Boarded train with Ajahn Appi, who (surprisingly) remembered my name, but we didn’t sit together. Went to beach house Airbnb at Cottesloe, as wanted to relax and meditate. Ended up spending the next few days socializing quite a lot. Lay Har invited me to stay with her and her husband next time.
    4. Mumbaikar Deepavali lunch
    5. Over 42’s slack, ended up in a back-and-forth with
    6. First DT 201 course! It was a small success!
    7. Back to 42, finished born2beroot and extended my blackhole absorption date by a month.
  12. December 2023
    1. Started the Council training. This is a storytelling & listening practice from Snap (which took it from the Ojai Foundation). My wife and I have been on this journey, and it has been extremely rewarding.
    2. here i am!

Looking at the past year, a few things stuck out.

Lessons learned

Listen to the moment. Not the past, not the future

When planning ahead, there’s a presumption that everything will pan out as we think and hope.

But “life is what goes wrong”, as Ajahn Brahm said before.

And it is interesting to see that many of the most impactful events in 2023 were completely unplanned. Like my grandma’s passing, which was super unexpected: literally I woke up to dozens of missed calls, and a series of very long messages from my mum.

The most positive impactful things which happened to me this year (e.g. the closed-door ministerial dialogue on ageing, which I co-facilitated), as well as 42 Singapore, were also unplanned. They all came from people I knew, who mentioned things to me.

Don’t trust one’s emotions, and reduce one’s ego

This is a big one, and a main lesson from Ajahn Ganha. I’ve learned to think less about my preferences, and instead to focus on just plodding along, doing what I should be doing, instead of what I think I should do.

Corporate frameworks don’t really work for individuals

Like OKRs. I think they are good as a starting point, but truth is, any plan is likely to lock you into something which you might regret. This is especially when learning something or starting something, I often don’t really know what I don’t know, until I start.

An example was in coding. I started the year with the plan of “let me do 100 Days of SwiftUI, and get it done by April, and then to spend the rest of 2023 making apps”.

But… the truth I discovered was that:

  • the material was often not completely free (even though it was marketed as such), but I wasn’t prepared to pay for them.
  • much of the material style was presented in a very comprehensive but pedantic manner which didn’t gel with me.

Then when I switched to using Professor John Gallaugher’s YouTube video materials, it was MUCH more engaging. However,

  • whenever I diverged from doing what he was doing, I ended up getting completely and thoroughly lost, because my fundamentals were not good.

If I was focused on “delivering” my OKRs, it would be clear that I could have done so, by adopting a very different approach. I could have

  • taken a no-code approach to making apps
  • hired someone to work on my apps for me
  • partnered with someone else who is technically stronger, to work on this as a side project etc.

And while true, there is something I would have lost from taking the longer, slower road: the sense of being on a journey towards craftsmanship. I would, I think, have completely lost the “how” in pursuit of the “what”. And I am not sure I would have enjoyed the end-outcome at the end of the year as much as I have: I’m not sure I would have learnt as much as I have this year.

The other danger of corporate frameworks is that they are inherently very biased towards logic, reason, and willpower. So there is a tendency to overpower the little uncertainties and alarm bells that are going on inside my mind, and to “just do”, instead of listening to the other side of the mind.

Dhamma practice got subsumed

If I look at the year, the truth is that, it’s unclear that Dhamma was really, REALLY important to me.

Ok, maybe that is too harsh. Afterall, I did serve, and I did meditate multiple times a day, and also did visit Ajahn Ganha, AND spent part of the Rains retreat with Ajahn Brahm.

But I also look at the time spent, and the quality of my mind and mindfulness in day to day life, and wonder if I would really be able to build up the five indriya (confidence, energy, mindfulness, samadhi, wisdom) towards stream-entry. Because it seems to me that my daily mind is quite a far cry from my mind on retreat, and maybe for 2024, I should focus on reducing the difference between the two.

What to stop in 2024?

Changing my mind

I think I changed my mind a lot this year, especially about learning programming. Prior to 42, I had tried out Launch School, and was working through that. Prior to Launch School, I had tried Prof Gallaugher’s YouTube course, but also tried 100 Days of SwiftUI. Before that, I had tried learning Clojure over two years.

So for 2024, my resolution is to just work through the 42 programme, unless I get kicked out despite trying my best.

Too much socializing

As I went through my calendar, I realized I have spent a LOT of time socializing with others over lunches and meals. For 2024, I’m going to cut down on that, and just be less pro-active in reaching out…

Too much travel

I travelled 4 times this year: Korea, Phuket, Ajahn Ganha, and then Jhana Grove. That’s too much, as it disrupted other things in between.

What to bring forward to 2024?

Sticking to 42 Singapore

I made a resolution (which I am sticking to) to “just do it”, and to complete it as best as I can. There are good people there, and it feels good to be plugged into a community.

However, while I will do my best and work towards it, I won’t be as desperate as some of my colleagues are, who are pushing through with it day and night without fail. Some of them are close to burning out, I think.

Regular exercise

This has been very good for me. I’ve built up a base of zone 2, and also building up strength. I signed up at the SUTD fitness centre.

Regular retreats

Enough said.

More small bets

Enough said.

What to start in 2024

New Small bets

  • To start with a newsletter, which might be a good way to build an audience but to also share stuff that is helpful for others (for free).
  • Building online courses, to sell stuff that I don’t want to do again (e.g. managerial stuff)

What does a good day/week/month towards streamwinning look like?

This is an unanswered question, which I will try to answer now. A good day

  • Meditate 3x a day, > half an hour each.
  • Chanting in the morning and evening
  • listening to a Dhamma talk while commuting or on zone 2 bike

A good week

  • 7 good days
  • Friday evening, listening to the BSWA livestreams

A good month

  • Every two weeks, Sunday afternoons listening to sutta classes livestream
  • On the full moon day, to go on a self-retreat, keeping 8 precepts (including no entertainment)

Written on 11 Dec 2023