Merry Christmas and Happy New Year! Here is the special edition featuring my year in review.
Fourteen years ago, I started writing year in review and published it on my birthday.
At 33, Virginia Woolf published her first novel, The Voyage; Michelangelo painted his masterpiece on the dome of the Sistine Chapel; Jesus crucified himself for humans to receive forgiveness of sin ...
Looking back on my year in 33, it seems like I have accomplished nothing. Still, I felt grateful for this eventless year as much as possible. It was a year of travelling around Europe and Asia, trying out various projects, experiencing the digital nomad lifestyle, measuring human civilisation with my feet and expanding my knowledge of a new reality with my heart.
Now, brace yourself for twelve chapters of stories that I'll be sharing with you!
On the last day of 2021, I spent time in Aveiro with musicians and locals. We kicked off the morning with an impromptu rooftop concert, and as the evening approached, we sang and danced along the streets.
When the New Year's Eve bell rang at midnight, we even "stole" a boat from the canals and celebrated from midnight to mid-day with nonstop singing and dancing.
My local Portuguese friends had told me that while Aveiro may not be as well-known as Lisbon or Porto, it has a unique charm that draws people to come back, especially to the VIC Art House.
Aveiro offers a Venice-like canal and colour seaside view. Still, more importantly, it's home to a community of creative artists and musicians who come together to generate new, exciting ideas and support each other in bringing them to fruition.
After spending so much time on the internet, I almost forgot about the beauty of offline life. However, my visit to VIC reminded me of the genuine care and love that can be found in the real world.
It's time to say goodbye to Aveiro, where I have lived for almost six months. Aveiro is a diverse place where I made friends from various countries, including Colombia, Italy, Lithuania, Serbia, Argentina, and Portugal. I will truly miss everyone there.
I was invited to read poetry at a local bar as a farewell. It was an incredible and rewarding experience to recite Su Shi's Song of Water Tunes in a foreign country and receive applause from local people. Can you believe it?
Just a year ago, I never thought I would be living in Portugal, let alone performing with Portuguese musicians in bars. But over the past two years, I have learned to embrace the unexpected and let go of my ego and control instead, letting fate take me on this amazing journey.
I'm sure the people of Aveiro will remember the pink-haired Chinese girl who spoke terrible Portuguese and enjoyed a good laugh :P
I returned to the UK this month, and my first stop was the Etihad Stadium to watch the Manchester derby. I haven't watched the Premier League in half a year, but I was immediately caught up in the excitement of the game.
Football is a great game that always brings me joy and tears and teaches me important life lessons: sometimes hard work pays off, and sometimes you need to accept the lousy result no matter how hard you try.
I have been living a peaceful lifestyle in the countryside in England. Every day, I woke up practising yoga, writing and taking walks in the park when I needed a break. Apart from that, I also participated in two online courses:
By focusing on my personal development and building meaningful connections with others, I have created a peaceful and fulfilling lifestyle that brings me joy and contentment.
This month, I had the opportunity to attend the Blockchain Conference in Barcelona, hosted by Celo. As a long-time fan of FC Barcelona, also known as Barça, I was thrilled to finally visit Camp Nou and experience the atmosphere of a match in person.
Since 2003, I have gained a deep appreciation for the team's football philosophy led by Johan Cruyff and Catalan culture and history. It was an unforgettable experience to chant Barça's theme song with tens of thousands of fans and watch the team emerge victorious.
After Barcelona, I went to a Vipassana Meditation centre in Suffolk, England, to learn a centuries-old Buddhist meditation technique called Vipassana. For ten days, I followed a strict schedule that included waking up at 4 am, meditating for 12 hours a day, abstaining from digital devices, speaking, reading, writing, music, physical contact, violence, and consuming meat and alcohol. This rigorous practice allowed me to delve deep into my inner self and explore the root causes of human suffering.
Despite the challenges, I found the experience to be incredibly transformative. The silence and solitude provided a rare opportunity for introspection and self-reflection, and I gained a greater understanding of my thoughts and emotions. I'm grateful for the inner peace that has stayed with me long after the retreat ended.
This month, I was delighted to mark the release of the Chinese version of Beyond Order, which I co-translated with Steve Shi and Marcel Zhang. Moreover, I seized the chance to assess my personal development by composing a 30,000-word review on Dr Jordan Peterson's Self-authoring program. This exercise enabled me to scrutinize my life and think about what is most meaningful to me.
Dr Peterson mentioned the value of self-reflection in his book, arguing that we may never truly understand ourselves unless we set aside time to reflect on who we are. He suggests that writing about the past helps us articulate and analyze key positive and negative life experiences, writing about the present allows us to evaluate our strengths and weaknesses, and writing about the future helps us consider what we truly desire.
To live a fulfilling life, one must engage in self-reflection and strive for self-awareness. This process, which may require solitude and introspection, ultimately allows us to understand ourselves and our place in the world. Without this understanding, we cannot genuinely communicate with others or fully embrace our lives.
I had a spontaneous trip to Madeira this month to relax and was invited by some local friends to join them at the CR7 hotel to attend the annual fireworks festival. Seeing many familiar faces and having plenty to talk about with my old friends is always lovely.
One of the great things about being a digital nomad is having friends worldwide. Even though we don't see each other often, it's always a special feeling to know that someone will be happy to see you wherever you go.
Although it may seem like I am houseless with all my belongings in a suitcase, I view this minimalist lifestyle as an opportunity rather than a constraint. As Borges once said, "A writer — and, I believe, generally all persons — must think that whatever happens to him or her is a resource. All things have been given to us for a purpose, and an artist must feel this more intensely."
As the fireworks lit up the night sky, I couldn't help but feel grateful for all the people who had helped me along the way. I knew this trip to Madeira was just one of many adventures to come, and I couldn't wait to see what the future held for me as a digital nomad.
This month, I had the opportunity to interview two of my online mentors, Derek Sivers and Tom Morgan, which has been incredibly beneficial. As a Chinese saying goes, listening to the words of a wise man can be superior to studying ten years of books. The insights and guidance I gained from interviewing them have helped me tackle some of the philosophical questions that have been weighing on my mind.
The Networked State, the latest book by Balaji published this month, has sparked a new round of writing cohort activity within the 1729 community. I joined Grant and Matt to assist with course design, digital communication and distribution, and guest interviews. After spending a month working with them remotely, I have become even more convinced that remote work is becoming mainstream.
My previous experience as a solo freelancer allowed me to discover the benefits of working asymmetrically. Still, my recent experience of organizing a writing cohort with team members in different time zones has shown me that remote work can be just as effective as working in person as long as everyone shares a common goal and has good communication skills.
It should come as no surprise that many individuals are opting to work remotely due to technological advances and the demand for flexibility in today's world.
I recently visited Portugal with my friend Monica, who has a similar background to mine. We are both from New Zealand and have worked in senior positions at banks there before leaving our jobs to move to London to pursue our artistic dream.
We are now independent creators who believe that following our passions and practising our craft consistently is the way to achieve a fulfilled life. I am grateful to have her with me on my life journey, where we can support and encourage each other along the way.
This month, I returned to CrossFit and could keep up with the progress, which reminded me that my body's potential is infinite, but my mind can sometimes hold me back. In the past, I used to dread going to CrossFit and would even cry during workouts because I was afraid of getting injured or being embarrassed. However, I realized that my perceived impossibilities were just in my head, and the reality was much less intimidating once I convinced myself to try.
Developing an optimistic mindset is a practice similar to exercise. By constantly challenging myself and testing my boundaries, I can overcome self-doubt and see the light at the end of the tunnel. This process can be full of uncertainty, pain, and frustration. Still, as long as I am alive, there is always a chance to achieve success and experience peak pleasure by forming a positive relationship with time.
This month, I was offered a job contract from OSV, a new investment firm focused on supporting creators and innovation, run by my favourite podcast host, Jim O'Shaughnessy. Jim shared the story of myself and my colleague on Twitter, discussing how we were "treasure-picked" by him through the internet.
This is an excellent example of how in the future, you don't necessarily need a traditional resume to secure a job. Instead, it's important to focus on doing what you love and being consistent, and in time, you will be noticed and recognized by others.
In addition to this exciting job opportunity, I restarted my Chinese podcast channel, 理想屯, and have been interviewed by several major Chinese podcast channels to share my overseas experiences and life philosophies. I enjoy the long conversational format of podcasts, as they allow me to talk to people I admire, make new friends, and share my expertise and insights with listeners worldwide.
As a content creator, building something once and selling it multiple times is very appealing. Podcasts offer a unique opportunity to do this, as they can be listened to anytime, anywhere, and by a potentially large audience.
Additionally, podcast listeners can often participate in the discussion by leaving comments or interacting with the host or other listeners through social media or other platforms (China market specifically). So why not give podcasting a try and see where your creativity and enthusiasm can take you?
Earlier this month, I travelled to Manchester to watch Haaland's live game and then headed to Italy for a three-week vacation.
In Naples, I watched my first Serie A match at the Maradona Stadium and walked the streets to try some delicious Italian food and wine. I took a day tour in the sun-drenched city of Pompeii, where I could experience a civilisation frozen in time for over a thousand years. I then took a boat trip to the beautiful island of Capri, where I marvelled at the stunning natural landscape.
From cathedrals to galleries, colosseums, fountains, squares, sculptures, and temples, humans have used the mundane aspects of nature to create brilliant civilisations. While the laws of physics may help us understand what we see in the universe, they cannot explain the emergence of Rome and the Vatican. Italy is truly a masterpiece of Western civilisation.
Despite seeing Michelangelo's The Creation of Adam countless times in print and on screen, I was overwhelmed with awe when I saw the frescoes in the Sistine Chapel dome in person. The beauty of these works made me feel that leaving behind such art, even at the cost of my health, would be a worthwhile trade.
I believe it is better to burn out and leave a lasting impact than to simply fade away. Maybe one day, after experiencing more of the world, I will find an ultimate goal worth sacrificing my life for.
Last year, I had the opportunity to participate in a psychedelic experience with the Grandfather plant in Portugal. During two trips over four days, I could "see" the themes that constantly haunt my mind: time, space, reality, and dreams.
This month, I went to an Ayahuasca retreat, which was life-changing. With the highly trained and compassionate facilitators leading the ceremony, I could delve deep into my own consciousness and confront some long-held beliefs and patterns. The journey was not always easy, but it was incredibly rewarding, and I came out of it feeling more grounded and connected to my true self.
After being away from home for three years, I recently embarked on a journey from Lisbon to London to Hong Kong to Jinan. Despite facing several challenges, including late flights, cancelled trains, and forced quarantines, I tried to view this mammoth journey as a game, with each stop being a level I had to pass. I rewarded myself with food and drink at each destination, with the ultimate goal of reuniting with my parents.
Kevin Kelly once said, "Humans are experts at inefficiency. All art, discovery, innovation, creation, are inherently inefficient. Efficiency is for robots, not us."
During the ongoing Covid-zero policy in China, I have had the opportunity to embrace a more leisurely and inefficient lifestyle. This has allowed me to understand the wisdom of the Stoics, who believe that complaining about things beyond our control only adds to our stress and does not change the situation. Instead, I have found it more fulfilling to spend quality time with my parents at home and appreciate the simple things in life.
Most creative ideas often come when I'm not actively trying to be productive. It's during those moments of relaxation, when my mind is free to wander, that I come up with new and innovative solutions to problems. While it's essential to be efficient in some aspects of life, it's also important to remember that the journey is just as important as the destination.
As a diehard football fan for over two decades, my excitement reaches new heights during the FIFA World Cup. This year marks my seventh time watching the World Cup, and although I don't have a specific team to root for, it's always a thrill to watch some of my favourite players compete on the field.
Football is brutal, with many players putting in years of hard work on the field but failing to achieve the championship they've always dreamed of. Similarly, fans spend countless hours cheering on their favorite team, only to be left disappointed time and again.
However, there's always a chance for hope in every moment of a football match. The key is never to give up until the final whistle blows. This philosophy has helped me stay motivated and face challenges in life with determination.
Even though some of the players I grew up watching have retired, seeing new stars rise up and knowing that the excitement of the game will never truly end allows me to continue experiencing the pure joy - even amidst the brutality - of football.
Annual Recommendation and Performance Review
That's all! Happy holiday and see you next year! ?