Annual Reviews

2021 Review: Realignment & Grounding

man standing on seashore

Note: My year runs from April to March. Each annual review can be found here: 2022, 2021, 2020, 2019.

Overall Reflection

2021 was the year of realignment.

The unknowns of what life was going to look like with the continuation of the pandemic, multiple lockdowns and restrictions presented the perfect opportunity to further ground myself.

I finally learned to really slow down after finding myself recovering from yet another burn out early in the year, realising that the marketing work I thought I wanted to do was not my path.

This was the year I stopped being a “bulldozer”.

I stopped myself from getting caught in the hustle & grind energy that came from the insidious conditioning underpinning our society and culture — its never-ending thirst for “more, bigger, and faster”.

I had finally learned to let go of the toxic achievement mindset that has overshadowed my life by correcting my old habits of always wanting to mow down goals with intensity.

When I asked myself “Who am I becoming?”, the lesson from The Tortoise and the Hare kept surfacing in the corners of my mind…

“Slow and steady wins the race.”

After watching Kung Fu Panda (1, 2 & 3), it became clear to me that a version of Master Oogway is someone I aspire to become, so I decided to adopt the tortoise as my spirit animal.

The catalyst that helped me to continue to do the self work I needed was learning about my human design and finding out that I’m designed from birth as an Advisor. Human Design deepened my understanding of how I’m designed to best use my energy and operate in the material world.

It’s the best body of work I’ve ever come across that gave me the knowledge I needed to really understand the core of “what” I am in the world. I was able to start understanding why I am the way I am, why I’ve done what I’ve done in the past, and what I can do to move through work and life with more ease, flow and abundance.

Because I was blown away by the accuracy, depth and nuances that no other personality assessment tools were able to provide me, I decided to study the BG5 Foundation Course in order to integrate this work into my own work for clients.

As a result of being patient with myself, a new career and business direction has emerged.

Highlight of 2021

My self worth is no longer dependent on my achievements.

I noticed that I don’t have anymore negative chatter in my head, and I’m not particularly worried or stressed about anything.

My mind is at the quietest it’s ever been, and nothing is over-consuming my mental space. I’ve finally began to experience a sense of inner peace I’ve never experienced before and it feels amazing.

I feel at peace just being me.

Things To Celebrate

Optimal Mental & Emotional States

This is the domain of life I am most proud of. How I think, feel and relate to myself and others is at the healthiest it’s ever been.

It’s unreal to see how far I’ve come, and witness how much I’ve changed as a person from the time I struggled with the idea of taking my own life in 2016.

The mental and emotional tools were the core life skills I recognised I needed the most in order to live a quality, happy and fulfilling life. Coming into the realisation of the importance of self work over the years helped me see with crystal clear clarity that how I thought and how I felt about my experiences governed every domain of my life — health, love, work, finances, family, social life, and hobbies.

Developing these 2 core pillars of our human makeup, are the powerful interconnected Archimedes levers that either makes everything else in our lives better or worse.

It wasn’t until I went through the pain of watching my entire life fall apart that I’ve come to recognise the importance of doing self work, and it has remained high on my priorities since my first wake up call in 2015.

As I spent the year navigating the unknowns and uncertainty of what the pandemic brought, I was able to approach this somewhat heavy challenge of “figuring out what to do with my life” with a sense of lightness and joy, due to my much improved mental and emotional capacity to handle stress, frustrations and demoralising emotions.

Even though from the outside looking in, my life seems stationary (since nothing has materialised yet in the form of a career and business), there’s now a sense of stability I feel that helped me stay calm. The centeredness I feel is instilling the inner belief and trust in myself that everything will work out ok.

Piano Practice is Back

In the beginning of the year, I committed to practicing the piano twice per week. Then something interesting happened 11 weeks into this new commitment…

1. I found myself spending 90min per session.

From the time I sat down at my keyboard, to when I caught a glimpse of the clock… I found myself saying “Whaaaat? It’s been 90mins already?!”

As they say, time flies when you’re having fun!

2. I found myself performing better in other domains in life.

Playing the piano does multiple things for me:

  • It helps me process my emotions
  • I feel the most connected to myself when I play
  • I enjoy the challenge of figuring out and learning new pieces to improve my skills

Music is a major contributor to my mental, emotional and spiritual states.

After deciding to incorporate music back into my life, and discovering these 2 insights, I increased practice sessions to 3 times per week (1 hour each) so I can do more of what I enjoy and love.

Other magical things happened that I didn’t expect…

1. Lyrical ideas came to me for the first time ever (ideas that I don’t hate or think it’s stupid).

Because of my lifelong struggle with words, I’ve always hated the lyrics I tried to write. I used to think I could only write music. Lyrics is now a possibility. It’s finally possible to entertain songwriting again without feeling the need to work with a lyricist.

2. I didn’t need to learn songs from sheet music

I feel like I learn better from watching someone else play and listening to instructions from HD Piano, and I can better play from memory instead of relying on reading sheet music like I’ve been trained in the past.

3. Playing felt easier and more effortless

Compared to my teenage years and my early 20s, difficult and more technically challenging pieces felt easier to learn and play now. The improvement I see feels wild to me because I’m only spending a fraction of the time on the piano compared to daily practice growing up.

My body feels more relaxed, I’m less self conscious, and I trust my fingers and intuition more.

The changes I’ve seen is definitely attributed to my personal growth because I’ve learned to let go of self criticism, judgement and perfectionism. I’m doing it for the love and enjoyment, rather than for achievement or in order to prove myself.

New Work Direction

For years, I wanted a career (and a business) that I can see myself doing for at least a decade because the work lights me up. I feel like I’ve arrived at that point after decades of searching, trying different things and going down the wrong paths…

I started the year promoting myself as a marketing consultant until I realised how much I was resisting it internally. Then, the idea of moving into branding felt closer, but still not quite ‘it’.

It wasn’t until I slowed down and created space that a new direction began to emerge.

While I actively waited, something exciting started to happened that I feel is worth celebrating…

As I built my network and engaged in 1:1 conversations, people transform themselves into a prospect in front of my eyes and ask me if I’d be interested in working with them.

I never go into a conversation with the intention to sell nor to blatantly promote myself. So when people express their interest to work with me out of the blue, it’s a pleasant surprise since I did not expect it.

This way of attracting clients is new and refreshing to me. It’s much more enjoyable compared to when I listened to “business gurus” telling me to hustle for business with direct mail, outreach, sales calls etc… which none of it felt good to me.

When I learned that I have the energy type of an Advisor, I realised that the fastest way to deplete my energy and continue to meet resistance in work and life is to go against myself and how I want to show up.

I’ve come to know for certain through experimenting with my own human design is that the more I’m in alignment with myself, the more of the right clients and people show up. Because I learned that the right people are able to sense and see what I’m naturally good at.

In a weird and wonderful way, they helped me see my strengths and helped me remember my superpower, which helped me get a better sense of the direction I wanted to head down.

Their requests centered around advice for strategy, structure and efficiency — which is what I enjoy helping people with. Because I know I’m good at bringing order to chaos.

Who knew that turning my back against archaic, traditional business advice and actually listening to myself would make such a dramatic difference to the way I’m now approaching business building and the way I’m experiencing life?

Better Rest & Recovery

As I’ve come to a deeper understanding of how my energy works, I became more serious about prioritising my recovery and sleep.

Letting go of my achievement mindset meant I stopped pushing myself to work when I don’t feel well, and allowed my body to rest whenever it needed to. I don’t feel bad, feel guilty or feel lazy anymore when I take time to take care of myself.

I also got better at taking entire days off periodically, spending more time with my family, doing more fun and enjoyable activities, and completely switch off from work.

A Better Body (No Weight/Size Gain)

Every year without fail, for as long as I can remember, I gain at least 3kg in winter from eating more and being less active. This meant I’d try to lose weight in summer, every damn year.

My old behaviour was no different to anyone who yoyo-diets every year trying to lose the same fat they put on after they “fall off the wagon”.

The extra weight I’d gain every year didn’t just show up on the scales. As my body ballooned in winter, my clothes and pants naturally becomes tighter. There were years I went up a size or two and not being able to fit into the clothes I had.

Here’s what’s interesting about what I noticed at the end of last winter…

Although I was eating more chocolate and junk food in the colder months, my clothes and pants didn’t feel tighter. I thought it was strange. Because I saw no change in how I fit into my clothes that I usually expect, it piqued my curiosity to check my weight which I haven’t done for over a year up to that point.

Instead of seeing 58kg show up on the scale like I normally do, I saw 55kg with clothes on. The number was so bizarre to me that I weighed myself a few times to make sure the scale was accurate.

Looking back, the only major change I made to improve my physical health over the past 4 years was adopting better eating habits (learned to cook, meal prep, practiced mindful eating), putting better quality “fuel” into my body (nutrition) and detoxifying.

Better food choices and quality nutrition not only allowed my body to heal from lifelong chronic health issues, but my guess is that it also altered my biochemistry in some way which made my body more effective at getting rid of excess fat and bad stuff that I allowed in.

Seeing the incredible changes to my body over time inspires me to keep improving it to boost the quality of my life and work towards longevity.

What I’m Grateful For

  • 1:1 human design consulting session with Lucas and 1:1 career design overview with Tuck helped me recognise and accept qualities about myself that I’ve made myself wrong for in the past that I’ve never been able to articulate nor express
  • Enrolled in BG5 Foundation Course to gain a deeper understanding of the human design body of work
  • A friend took the trouble and set up a lunch for me and a friend of his to be introduced to each other
  • No one in my family got covid, everyone is healthy
  • I had no symptoms from any of the covid vaccines, my body reacted well and did a great job protecting me
  • My landlord/housemate reduced my rent to help me out with expenses
  • The things I used to love have all showed up and came back to me this year — music (playing piano), basketball (NBA), connection to Japan (friends and new connections with similar backgrounds)
  • Having a clean, organised, joyful physical and digital workspace
  • Getting invited to work for a mentor I have admired and respected from afar for over a decade. The asynchronous role not only helps pay for some expenses, but I am most excited about seeing things behind-the-scenes, forging deeper relationships and be around people I want to continue to learn from
  • Met 2 new people who appreciates my multi-faceted background & skillsets that may lead to collaboration down the track

Things To Improve

Increase Physical Energy & Movement

While the physical change I saw with my body was awesome… I became lazier with my nutrition this year, and was not as diligent nor mindful about my food choices.

As a result, my energy levels have gradually dipped over time. My energy is no where near the peak levels I experienced when I decided to transform my physical health in 2018 that led me to lose 10kg.

For me, eating clean still requires a certain amount of mental bandwidth because these skills and positive habits are not ingrained deep enough in me yet to become automatic.

Because I live with a housemate who doesn’t share the same values and motivations in the health domain, it’s more difficult for me to maintain healthy habits since I don’t have complete control of my environment. It’s easy to be tempted when I’m surrounded by fast food and junk food everyday.

I’ve been feeling the need to do WildFit again to further improve my relationship with food and regain my energy.

While I’ve made a conscious effort to stretch my body between work sessions and meetings, I want to incorporate more movement and strength training activities into my week. This means, I need to better design and integrate movement habits that I can build on and sustain.

Practice Emotional Clarity

black card

Because I dedicate my time to meet new people and expand my network, I had an unpleasant experience with 2 people I met this year.

They showed up with ‘good intentions’ until I realised they were not the type of people I want to associate myself with. This is just a part of life.

In hindsight, I allowed myself to agree to something I wasn’t 100% comfortable with because I was forced to make a decision on the spot without given the time I needed.

Because the engagement felt off, it led me to question what I agreed to. I was not surprised when this new relationship turned sour in the span of a few weeks, when they showed their true colours.

Two things led to this unpleasant experience…

  1. I didn’t listen to my intuition. Something felt off from the beginning but I let that feeling slide and believed in people’s good intentions.
  2. I didn’t use my decision making strategy and entered into an agreement incorrectly. I didn’t wait for emotional clarity like I was supposed to, to decide if it was the right thing for me.

This experience proved why it’s critical for me to wait for emotional clarity to utilise my decision making strategy correctly by following my design.

Because I found out that my emotional function is defined in my human design, this is something new for me that I need to continue to remind myself and put into practice, so I can move through business and life with more ease and flow.

Avoid People Fatigue

As much as I enjoy meeting new and interesting people around the world, I found myself drained after meetings and events on a number of occasions throughout the year, which made me realise that I needed to adjust my “people time”.

Being an introvert, and being an Advisor (non-energy type), spending too much time around people depletes my energy.

Experimenting with network building activities this year and learning through my experience… I need to be mindful about how much time and energy I can dedicate to other people, and limit my time for meetings, events and community engagement.

I need to create better rules and systems for networking and relationship activities to ensure I don’t continue to burn myself out.

Lessons Learned

Identifying & Removing Resistance

body river surrounded by dress

I continued to learn about the different ways my monkey mind pulled me off track, and created resistance in my life this year.

Lesson 1: Just because you know how to do something, doesn’t mean you should.

The reason why marketing consulting work felt off to me was because in 2020 my mind was focused on generating income. I participated in a business mentorship program at the time to start a new business. When it finished in 2021, I realised I got caught up in other people’s hustle mode because everyone was busy “doing the doing” building their businesses.

At the time, my mind justified that the shortest and fastest path to gain traction is to do what I’ve done. This was also exacerbated by my need (bad habit) to achieve. I’ve spent over a decade figuring things out in digital marketing, but I realised doing marketing work for others actually sapped my energy.

Why I ever thought that was a great idea, is proof just how powerfully convincing the monkey mind can be when it’s operating from conditioning.

It wasn’t until I recognised the errors of my ways and understood the cause behind my burn out, that I stopped myself from over thinking, trying to conjure up business ideas and allowed my mind to dictate which path I should take. I reminded myself to let go, slow down and allow ideas to emerge as I practiced the art of active waiting.

In the spirit of realignment, I also didn’t want money to influence how I made decisions in business, career and life, and to stop myself from making bad decisions like chasing after the wrong clients and doing the wrong type of work.

I also wanted to stop operating in survival mode, and the best way to solve the problem at the root level is to let go of my need to make (chase) money.

I chose to watch my bank account deplete and saw my situation as an opportunity to really test my relationship with money to see if I will “freak out” and become irrational.

Instead, I focused my attention, time and energy (the resources that’s actually limited in our lives) to create space for a new direction to emerge.

Turns out, choosing to trust myself and trust that I will always get what I need in life gave me a new level of freedom and peace I wanted.

Not only do I now know that I’m not trapped and influenced by money (money usually comes with chains), I also know that my bank balance doesn’t affect my mental and emotional state, my self image, my self worth nor my self confidence.

I learned that when you stop chasing after ‘the next thing’ (money, business idea, achievement) and stop operating in survival mode, life will give you what you need.

Lesson 2: Only engage in experiences in alignment with who you are.

Because ‘relationship building’ is one of my core business and life activities, I spent the year testing and trying out different groups and networking events to build my network.

Early in the year, I committed to one community to see if it’s something I can see myself sustaining.

While I enjoyed interacting with likeminded people I met in that community and made friends… I ended up staying longer than I should have because my monkey mind justified all the reasons I should stay even though the system didn’t resonate with me.

This meant I sat with resistance for months before recognising the cause of the dissonance I felt with that community.

So I decided to let go of the need to be liked by these new friends, and let go of that group in order to free up space to focus on building my network and the relationships I want to have in ways that’s in alignment with me.

After learning these 2 big lessons this year, they’ve helped me become more cognisant of what creates ease and flow in my life.

Moving forward, I’m approaching my goals and aspirations with the lens of “What if it was easy?”

I realised that I don’t have to make myself suffer in order to create the life I want. I want to continue to recalibrate my relationship with the material world and navigate it through the perspective of grace, joy and allowing.

Protect My Energy (Beware of Other’s Energies)

A few years back, my good friend Steve (healer and owner of Jade Healing) told me that I needed to learn to protect my energy from others. At the time, I didn’t understand what he meant because I had just started embarking on my journey of personal transformation — I was on the journey to become Jen.

It wasn’t until this year that I finally understood what he meant as I learned to hone the skills of self inquiry, self observation and self reflection over time. Human Design & BG5 further cemented what I’ve come to understand about myself.

I have a lot of open functions in my design, which means I take in a lot of energy from others “thinking” that it’s my own when it really isn’t.

Because I’ve spent my entire life operating in the shadows and distractions of the ‘openness’ in my design, the conditioning I was under has distorted how I saw myself and the world which ultimately influenced how I made decisions.

One way this has showed up in my life is buying more courses and programs than I care to admit ever since I embarked on my entrepreneurship journey in 2010 since there was so much I didn’t know that I had to figure out. I became an information junkie, an addict for information consumption for years before I came to my senses.

I learned that the more I operate correctly as myself, the more I’m able to lean on my own inner wisdom. The more I trust myself, the less I need from others.

I noticed an even greater shift in my relationship with knowledge and advice. Rather than seeking out coaches for guidance this year and relying on other people’s knowledge, I’ve come to rely on myself a lot more.

I’ve also become more ruthless about eliminating what’s not relevant to me and removing anything that doesn’t contribute to my priorities and goals. Which means I’ve become more protective of my attention, time and energy as my ability to filter out the noise & distractions from the signal continues to improve.

Discomfort & Imperfection is My Friend

Giving presentations isn’t something I particularly enjoy because I feel awkward when speaking to groups. Speaking is a skill I’ve yet to hone. However, I had an opportunity to give a presentation this year, and decided to see it as a chance to practice being comfortable with discomfort.

Because I chopped and changed ideas the week before and struggled to land on a topic, the deadline forced me to create something on the day of the presentation.

As someone who prefers to plan and prepare, there was no time to do any practice runs as I used all my time and energy on creating the presentation.

The idea of doing a new presentation without any practice made me nervous, because the chance of stumbling my words all over the place, and royally screw up in front of people was high. I was anxious about embarrassing myself.

One thing that saved my butt was that I remembered to remind myself that it’s ok to be imperfect right before crunch time. That helped calm my nerves and made all the difference in my performance.

Instead of focusing on how unprepared I was, I focused on being myself, trusting the material I had and reminded myself to allow my energy to shine. This prevented the nerves to hijack the presentation so I can deliver my message.

To my surprise, my talk went much better than I thought it would. People resonated with my talk, and I even received positive feedback from the audience.

I learned that by embracing discomfort and imperfection not only helped me perform better in an activity I suck at, but doing so also boosted my confidence and self esteem.

Recap 2021 Goals

Publish 24 educational articles on my website

Not even close — My rebranding project (Website V3.0) became a priority instead of articles. I did write a lot, but none of the content are ready for publishing yet.

Grow email subscribers (aiming for 300 quality people)

Nope, too early — Wrong time, this one is moved later down the track after Website 3.0 is complete.

Develop relationship management system for growing my network

Done — designed a simple system to help me better keep track and stay in touch with people in my network.

Grow my network

Done — I met 76 new people this year that I’ve had 1:1 conversations with on zoom. I’ve developed a friendship with a number of them from recurring conversations who I want to continue to keep in touch with. Now that I’m slowly making my way back into the business community and kick started my new network, this activity will remain on my priorities for the next decade or two as I refine my network/relationship building skills.

Study BG5 (Human Design)

Done — so glad I enrolled in the BG5 Foundation Course.

Continue to refine audience, messaging and develop new offers

In progress — changing business/career direction means this is something I continuously work on.

Complete WildFit again to improve health and energy

Nope — I realised it required too much mental bandwidth, and I needed to prepare myself to follow through, so I moved this goal to the new year.

Incorporate leg workouts into my day (more movement)

In progress — Still inconsistent because it hasn’t become a habit yet, it still needs improving.

Practice & play piano twice per week

Done — upped the ante and enjoying practicing 3 times per week. This goal stays the same for next year because music makes such a huge difference for my happiness and health.

2022 Priorities

  • Develop shutdown/evening routine — stop eating by 8pm, read for 10mins, be in bed by 11pm
  • Visit Judy (my sister & the kids) every 1-2 months
  • Improve physical energy and overall health
    • Incorporate WildFit again
    • Better design and incorporate lunges and squats 3 times per week
    • Walk 3 times per week
  • Create coaching & consulting offerings
  • Build my world online (Website V3.0)
    • Create MPPS, RBS, SPP and manifesto
  • Develop and practice 3 key skills:
    • Content Creation
      • Think through narrative arcs
      • Framing
      • Open loops
    • Writing & PKM
      • Complete Obsidian Flight School
      • Write/edit marketing assets an hour per day on week days
      • Stop editing when writing shitty first draft (self awareness)
    • Prioritisation & Decision Making
      • Ask MIQ at least once per week
      • Refine weekly reviews
      • Refine monthly review and planning
  • Continue to build network & deepen relationships with important people
    • 1:1 new people calls — 2 per week
    • 1:1 existing network calls — 2-3 per week
    • Create important people list
    • Revise important people list every quarter
  • Practice piano 3 days in a row per week, learn more challenging pieces

2022 is about establishing myself and planting my flag on the ground. I want to continue to develop systems and habits I can rely on to not only reach my goals, but to better support the lifestyle I want to live while enjoying the process of moving my business in a new direction with ease, fun and flow.

I’m Jen Kuo — operational efficiency consultant, systems thinker, writer. But really, I’m a multi-passionate creator.

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