Last year I wrote:
My mantra for 2015 was, "Little acts of courage." Thanks to my therapist and everyone he introduced me to, all of the crap that was weighing on my mind in 2014 slowly eased away. I can't quite say that 2015 was a good year for me, but I can say that it was definitely a better one.
For 2016, my mantra was, "Fail more." It was the next step above "little acts of courage" in that it expects that I constantly push my own boundaries and constantly fail. But instead of getting discouraged, I should feel proud for the opportunity to learn something new about myself. And every once in a while, when I expect to fail…the universe occasionally surprises me in wondrous ways.
For the fourteenth straight year, here is my annual survey of how I spent my year 2016.
1. Happier or Sadder?
Happier, thinner, and in a much better financial situation! (Much more on that below.)
2. What places did you visit?
- Bay Area for weddings (Jeremy & Rachel, Carl & Christina)
- Seattle for my brother's wedding
- Las Vegas twice, for work and the holidays
Hoping to take advantage of my paid time off at my new job this upcoming year!
3. What TV shows did you follow this year?
Got really into HGTV this year because my family talked a lot about buying a new house and remodeling our current house:
- Flip or Flop on HGTV
- Fixer Upper on HGTV
- Property Brothers
I lost interest in a lot of my other shows but these remain high on my list:
- The Walking Dead
- Fear The Walking Dead
- Black Mirror
I've always loved the "Indiana Jones" style adventures and I love having stuff playing in the background while I work, so these two shows on History Channel were favorites for me:
- The Curse of Oak Island
- America Unearthed
4. What is the best book you read in 2016?
I was so busy this year I only managed to read one book:
Modern Romance by Aziz Ansari.
Dating and finding love in the smartphone era is so different compared to how it used to be. It's interesting to see some stats and studies on how dating has changed over the decades.
5. What were your most favorite movies this year?
In Your Eyes. I didn't really love any new movies this year. But In Your Eyes put a refreshingly dramatic and human twist on telepathy.
6. What was your best food discovery in 2016?
Cauliflower rice. This stuff literally changed my life! The first time I made this, I instantly thought to myself, "OMG, I really might be able to do this Keto thing!"
Buffalo wings plain/naked, with sauce on the side. No more mess!
7. What was your best musical discovery in 2016?
Honestly, didn't listen to that much new music this past year.
8. What song(s) will always remind you of 2016?
- Versace on the Floor by Bruno Mars
- Want to Want Me by Jason Derulo
9. What were your most popular social media posts?
omg, the support from everyone on my keto progress photo was MIND-BLOWING. So grateful.
10. How has your personal fashion evolved this year?
So this year, I went down a shirt size AND two pant sizes! It's a big change for me cuz now I can consider wearing brands and styles that wasn't able to pull off before.
Because I have to buy a completely new wardrobe and my body is still changing, I'm taking a minimalist "capsule wardrobe" approach and sticking budget-friendly but timeless basics — nice jeans, plain fitted t-shirts in neutral colors, and a healthy rotation of jackets, hoodies, & sweaters.
At the moment, my favorite brand is Uniqlo because they focus on the basics and are easy on the wallet.
Also, Jogg Jeans are an absolute game-changer for me. They're definitely the skinniest I've ever gone with jeans, but I finally feel confident enough in my body to wear them.
11. What were your favorite memes/trends this year?
- Joe Biden pranking Trump
- Starter Pack meme
- Pokemon Go
12. What mainstream trends did you resist?
- Snapchat filters
13. Who were your celebrity crushes?
Megan Batoon. But also need to mention Joanna Gaines from HGTV, Christina Moussa from HGTV, and Felicity Jones in Rogue One.
14. How did you celebrate your birthday?
Nothing special. I technically started Keto two days earlier, but for my birthday I pigged out on Pizookies and delicious carbs.
15. What political issues really stirred you?
President-Elect Donald Trump. I absolutely hate how a symbol of racism and bigotry was voted to lead the country…
I know a lot of parents and older adults — many whom I love and respect — who voted for Trump simply because they will vote for anyone Republican. I can understand that and won't judge it.
But what really hurts is seeing friends calling us "whining cry babies" for being "overdramatic" about racism…
16. What was the best thing you bought?
- Gym Membership — This just goes without saying. This isn't the first time I ever joined a gym, and it's funny how each time I joined, there was this sense that "maybe this will be the turning point of my life". For once, I was actually right! Shout out to Rob at Crunch Fitness for hooking me up with the discounted membership without the one-year commitment.
Jogg Jeans — GREATEST PAIR OF PANTS EVAR. Super expensive but maaan, these bad boys are versatile AF! So glad I've lost enough weight that I can pull these off! I can literally wear them all day, every day. They got the style of a good-looking pair of jeans while having the comfort of sweat pants. This killer combo is perfect EVERYTHING, from wearing to work, running quick errands, long drives to Vegas, taking Kogi out on a walk, to just lounging around the house. I don't think I'll ever go back to regular jeans.
Cast Iron Skillet — When I spent most of the year working from home, learning how to cook with a cast iron skillet was a HUGE part of my weight loss. I love how versatile it is and how it'll literally last forever. I spent a lot of time in the kitchen cooking up ingredients in the stove, throwing it in the oven, and then eating directly from the skillet at the dinner table. There's just something so manly about being able to cook entire meals all in one cast iron skillet, like how cowboys used to do it.
AirPods — Wireless buds that play/pause automatically as you take them in/out of your ear makes working at the office and working out at the gym so much more delightful.
Uniqlo AIRism Underwear. Super cheap but super comfortable!
17. Did anyone close to you pass away? Any notable celebrity deaths?
Mrs. Davis. My beloved librarian from back home. Always so cheery and supportive. She totally encouraged me to start the Juggling Club back in middle school, LOL. But my favorite memory of her was my last day of middle school, just before I left for boarding school, she gave me the most encouraging words ever.
Carrie Fisher. As a huge Star Wars fan, this was the one celebrity death that really got to me this year.
Alan Thicke. Nothing but warm feelings when thinking about him and Growing Pains.
18. Where did most of your money go?
Been saving up for these bad boys for a couple years and the timing was perfect as my fully-loaded 2012 Mac mini started to show its age.
MacBook Pro 15-inch with Touch Bar. Some people will say all Macs are overpriced, but let's be real: this is an essential tool for me that helps me make a living, put food in the table, and pay for my parents' mortgage.
LG UltraFine 5K Display. This is a rather expensive investment too, but it's replacing my old $1,000 Apple Cinema Display which has served me 10 YEARS.
19. What did you really want and finally get?
Last year I wrote about one thing that would have made my year immeasurably more satisfying:
Being in a job position where I'm getting paid my worth and I'm surrounded with a team who all share the same values as me. It sucks really hard to get paid to do sloppy "quick and dirty" work when I know I can bring so much more to the table.
I'm proud to say that I finally got just that! A new job, with a significantly better salary, opportunities for growth, paid time off, 401k, and health benefits! And it's so refreshing to work with people who understand that identifying technical tradeoffs is a sign of intelligence, not a bad work attitude.
20. Did you drop any old habits or pick up new habits this year?
In 2015, I would listen to tech podcasts whenever I took Kogi out on a walk. This year I decided to live more in the moment and just focus on appreciating the simple things while I walked him. For those twelve minutes each day, I try to look at the world through his eyes.
The way he smells the flowers and plants every single time. The way he's so genuinely curious and interested in the world around him. The way he greets the neighbors like they're long-lost best friends.
There's a lot of beauty out there; we just tend to miss it because we're so busy multi-tasking.
21. Describe a typical day for you in 2016
Working from home (Jan-Oct) — Wake up 7:45ish. Chug some Keto Chow. 8:30ish walk Kogi around the block. Work from 9:00 to 12 noon. Cook lunch and nap. Work until 6pm. Walk Kogi around the block.
Working in Newport (Nov-Dec) — Wake up 5:30ish. Catch up on tech news. Chug Keto Chow and out the door by 6:45. Work from 8:00 to 12 noon. Quick lunch and nap in car lol. Work until 5pm.
Every night, after work — Catch up on tech news and social media. Play with Kogi or browse Imgur while Kogi licks my head until I fall asleep before midnight.
22. Any changes with your living situation?
Still living with my brother and parents. But we've had some conversations of selling the house, getting a smaller house for my parents, which would free Mark and I financially to get our own places.
In the meantime, we remodeled our bathrooms, added new flooring, and painted the walls. The idea was to improve the value of the house with the intention of selling it in the next few years.
23. How has your love life changed in 2016?
It hasn't, LOL. A little more on that here.
24. Did you develop any new hobbies or passions?
Wing Chun (Kung Fu). Since I "retired" from the game of basketball because my body can't hang anymore, I decided to give Wing Chun a try. It's a great fit for me because it's a practical martial art that focuses on precision & body structure instead of strength & mobility. (In other words, it's great for women and fragile old men, lol.) My favorite aspect of basketball was studying the footwork and studying Wing Chun is a very nice transition from that.
Salsa Dancing. After several months of Zumba, I realized that with enough practice, I can get really comfortable on the dance floor. And because I do a lot of one-on-one teaching to the newer students at Wing Chun, I felt like salsa dancing would be a pretty smooth transition. I never enjoyed going out clubbing...but I realized that maybe, if I was actually comfortable and confident with dancing, it might be a totally different story. I've tried a few classes and so far, I am loving it!
25. What did you do this year that you've never done before?
First time for a bunch of things:
- taking dancing classes (hip-hop fitness and ballroom)
- pushing changes to large website (Hungry Howies)
- riding public transportation in LA
- cooking (actual cooking, not just scrambled eggs or grilled cheese)
- emailing a CEO (Tim Cook)
- wearing a wife-beater tank top confidently
- shopping for clothing brands for "skinny people" (e.g. Express, Uniqlo)
- being direct with a girl instead of saying the the modern dating thing, "let's hang out"
26. What do you wish you've done more or less of?
You know, I'm pretty damn happy with the amount of activity I did this year and how things played out with my career. But if I had to redo some things, I would've revamped my portfolio earlier in the year.
27. What was the best thing you built or created?
Nothing big that any of my friends will care about, but coding up redesign concepts of Twitter and Instagram were huge assets for me when applying for new jobs. My recent work at my (old) job were just too "quick and dirty" for interviewers to take me seriously, so I had to take matters into my own hands...and it paid off.
28. What was your most memorable moment this year?
It was about two months into doing Zumba, I was still feeling insecure about being the only dude in the class. But one of the ladies came up to me and said, "You've lost a lot of weight since you started coming to Zumba!"
That exact moment, all of my insecurities about being "that one guy" in Zumba went out the window.
29. What did you do to further your career?
Throughout 2016, it became clearer to me that my job position was becoming less and less secure (not to mention that I've been wanting to leave the company since 2015). All of my strengths & wisdom in my craft were either diminished or seen as weaknesses. It was clear that I had outgrown my job position.
After a failed interview in 2015, I realized that all of my current work — while may be good by internet marketer standards — was a huge turn off for the companies I was applying for.
So I took it upon myself to build a portfolio from scratch. By far one of the best things I did was take redesign concepts from Dribbble and coded them up to be mobile responsive code. Finally, I had something that could impress my interviewers.
30. What kept you sane? What gave you hope?
Never thought I'd say this but…the gym was my happy place. On multiple occasions, after a stressful day of work, I just couldn't wait to get to the gym. It's just nice to get out of the house, be productive, and take my mind off things for 1.5 hours of the day.
I didn't really have to rely on hope like I have in the past. When you have a healthy routine, focus on the process, and live more in the moment, there's not much room for anxiety about the future.
31. Who did you miss?
Music fam and BTVfam. I really miss having people to talk to and hang out with every night.
32. Who were you most proud of this year?
Aileen. Super proud of how much she's grown with her Lavendaire brand. So genuine, ambitious, smart, and creative. I'm counting down the months until she finally writes a book, becomes a professional speaker, and starts hosting her own Lavendaire events across the nation.
33. Without naming names, who disappointed you the most and what did they do?
It's amazing how many people out there insist you live by their standards. Sometimes their standards are just too damn small, and they give you shit for trying to be more than they want you to be.
Sometimes their standards are respectfully high, but they are completely different than your own standards.
And then when you tell these people that you are happy with your own standards or you are focusing on finding your own happiness, they talk down on you as if you are being blind or disrespectful.
It's also interesting how many people have the mentality, "my personal opinion outweighs your years of professional experience."
34. Which new person in your life made the biggest impact on you?
Marlon, my favorite Zumba instructor. When I first started doing Zumba by myself, I dreaded the fact that I was the only dude in a class full of 59 women and a very sassy instructor.
It wasn't until a couple months later when I had a substitute instructor for Marlon who totally SUCKED. She was hard to follow, had terrible taste in music, and just went through the motions. Right then and there, I realized how awesome of an instructor Marlon was because of his enthusiasm, energy, fun choreo, choice of music, and easy-to-learn moves.
He helped me realized that the important thing isn't that I try to follow his (super sassy) moves; the important thing was to just dance and have fun.
35. How did your New Years Resolutions hold up? Any new resolutions for 2017?
This year, my resolution is to fail more often. Sessions with Dr. Pariser helped me realize that I need to do more than just get out of my comfort zone; I need to fail and get rejected more to learn and grow.
That's exactly what I did this past year. I took a chance on doing Zumba by myself. I took a chance on speaking up to my boss when I disagreed with him. I took a chance on applying for a lot of jobs. I took a chance asking for the salary I really wanted. I took a chance on taking a salsa class. I experienced failure and rejection multiple times...but in the end, better opportunities — the opportunities I really wanted — came knocking on my door.
My "fail more" new years resolution has worked out brilliantly for me and is now a life-long mantra of mine.
For this upcoming year, my new years resolution is to make better first impressions. I'm a very introverted guy with a bit of social anxiety so it takes a lot for me to make small talk with strangers and acquaintances (especially when the conversation doesn't involve food, lol). I want to get better at making good handshakes, making good eye contact, introducing myself, introducing others, remembering and repeating names. I know it sounds simple and should be something that everyone has mastered...but this is actually a really tough one for me.
If I stick with my salsa classes, I'll get a lot of practice as we rotate dance partners throughout the night.
I'm sure I'm gonna fumble a bunch of times...but that's okay, because "fail more".
36. What's been on your mind this year?
Cooking! For the first time ever, I really got comfortable with cooking in the kitchen. I spent a lot of the year researching keto-friendly recipes and trying to spin my own low-carb cooking experiments. I failed miserably a bunch of times but I'd rather be failing miserably now than failing when I cook for my own family.
The first burned bridge of my career. It blows me away how closed-minded some people can get. I told this person that I understand we come from two different worlds (engineering vs. marketing), so our standards for web development are different, so it's best that we part ways. And then this person just outright fired back saying how I've always been wrong, I'm too prideful, I'm sloppy, how I have a "moral obligation" to finish unfinished projects for free…blah blah blah. Seriously, his stubborn mentality is, "I don't care about your years of professional experience in the industry, DO WHAT I SAY."
My living situation. Since my dad has fully recovered from his cancer/transplant late last year, I've been itching to get my own place. Need to work out some financial stuff with my family before I can do that though.
37. What valuable life lessons did you learn this year?
"Loving yourself" is not about feeling good about yourself — it's about little actions you do for yourself, every day. It's about eating healthier, exercising, taking care of your body, constantly learning, pushing yourself mentally, and investing in yourself.
The best fashion accessory for a man is a manly upper-body. I used to always bitch about how the fashion industry discriminates against overweight people. I used to spend $200 on custom-tailored dress shirts because off-the-rack shirts never fit me right. I used to only wear black because it was the best way to "hide" my weight. Well, this year, I finally did something about it. I realized that celebrities wear the most basic clothes when going out casually…and the secret to looking like a million bucks is simply to have a strong-looking upper-body and wear clothes that fit. That's what I've been working towards for the past year and I'm slowly getting confident in wearing plain fitted t-shirts with jeans.
Approach uninformed critics as grade-school kids. In the past, it was very easy for me to take things personally when someone disagreed with me (e.g. someone from the internet says "Apple can't innovate anymore" LOL). Social media has made it too easy for people to think they are informed experts because they retweeted a 140-character click-baity headline. Now, I approach my arguments the same way I'd explain something to a grade-school kid; less condescending, more educating.
Progress doesn't have to be linear. Over the years, my weight has always been up and down…but always trended upwards. It was never a straight line. I realized that when I started my weight-loss, my progress doesn't have to be linear either. So when I wanted to take a break from losing weight, like how I did over the holidays so I can enjoy eating holiday food with my family, I should be able to without feeling guilty. I'm sure I'll cheat again when I go to my Hawaii Reunion this upcoming summer. And that's okay, because as soon as vacation is over, I get right back on the keto train and get back into my healthy routine. It doesn't matter that I have a small rebound on vacation; what matters is continually making progress over time.
How to check for proper posture. Stand up straight and put your arms to the side. Are your thumbs angled inwards, towards each other? Or are they pointing out forward? If your thumbs are angling towards each other, that means you are rolling your shoulders, which means you have poor posture. For good posture, your thumbs should be sticking forward, straight out. Good posture encourages good self-esteem. And good self-esteem encourages good posture.
38. What was the most impactful decision you made in 2016?
Experimenting with Keto. When I hit a plateau with my weight, even though I was being active with Zumba, I figured I might as well try something different.
It all started with a three-week experiment. I decided I could save a lot of time and carbs by doing meal replacement shakes for breakfast & dinner, so the only meal I'd really have to worry about was lunch. Turns out that was a successful — and sustainable — strategy for me.
39. What is the one thing you are most grateful for from this past year?
All my friends who were super supportive of me during my weight-loss journey. I mean, all of my motivation came from within, but having friends and family praising me for my progress really reinforced that feeling that I'm accomplishing something pretty damn significant.
The timing of my new job. Getting that recruitment letter just a month after I was fired was such a blessing. I didn't burn through much of my savings, I got to take advantage of my paid holidays, and I got enough money just before Black Friday sales to buy a whole new wardrobe to accommodate for my weight-loss.
40. What was your biggest achievement this year?
Losing 55 lbs, going down a shirt size, and two pant sizes.
41. What was your biggest failure?
Honestly, I'm having ZERO luck with online dating, LOL. I'll keep doing it but obviously I'm doing something tragically wrong. Sometimes I get a little emo about it, but then I just remind myself of my mantra — fail more. Just gotta keep experimenting, keep trying, and hopefully I'll figure it out, the same way I figured out sustainable weight-loss.
42. What was your most humbling experience this year?
Getting fired. I had been trying to leave the company for over a year, and technically my hours were just reduced, but I knew my days with the company were numbered.
This was the first time leaving a company not on my terms.
43. What one thing would have made your year more satisfying?
Progress with my love life. Haven't had any luck with online (or offline) dating at all this year…but I'll keep trying while doing my thing in the meantime.
44. If you could tell your past self something exactly one year ago, what would it be?
On January 2016, I wrote to myself:
Hey Future Mel,
How's Dad doing? He's still in the hospital right now but things are looking a lot better for him.
How's you career going? I feel like I've outgrown my current situation so I've spent most of the year looking for greener pastures. Right now I'm thinking I might have to take a half-step back in order to take a few steps forward in the future.
For the past year, my mantra has been "little acts of courage," and my new years resolution was to fail more. How'd that work out for you?
For most of the year, I found myself being negative and annoyed at everything vs. past years when I was always grateful and looking for the humor in any situation. That's exactly why I cut back on posting to social media. And it sucked. But I think I've got my head on straight again. Recently I find myself smiling and laughing at life's simplest pleasures again. I hope this continues to grow.
Hey Past Mel,
Dad's doing great now. Things were really, really…challenging at home during his recovery. But things got a lot better.
Career-wise, things don't exactly transition smoothly, but it all works out for the better. Just remember, you'll have to take matters in your own hands and to improve your chances at taking the next step.
Your new mantra, "fail more", will change your life in such great ways, but I'll let you discover it all on your own.
Keep your head up and keep failing forward.
45. What are you looking forward to this upcoming year?
Hawaii Reunion — It's been too long since I've seen the UDH crew. The last reunion I went to in SF was a pretty crappy one for me (totally my fault), I've had Hawaii on my bucket list forever, and this is the first time in years that I've had a job that offers paid time off. My body is ready.
More salsa dancing! I'm planning on doing this at least once per week. If the past 10 months of Zumba and 12 months of Wing Chun have taught me anything, it's that consistency & repetition are key to getting comfortable & confident out there.
46. If you could ask your future self anything one year from now, what would it be?
Hey Future Mel,
Is it weird that I don't have many questions to ask you? I'm pretty happy with all these new experiences I've opened myself up to. For the first time, I feel like I'm finding happiness in myself instead of relying on others.
How's your Zumba and Keto going?? My weight stayed somewhat steady during the holidays, event with my constant cheating, but I'm getting back on my grind for at least a few weeks. I'm considering doing proper carb cycling once a week. Let me know how that goes.
How's work going? For a short while, I was a little scared when Kim and Noah mentioned a developer was fired for underperforming…But right now, I think I'm on par with the other developers. So, at least for now, I feel safe. I'm hoping this will help me make big strides with my career.
How's Wing Chun going? I'm at Orange Sash right now…Brown and Black seem like an Everest. I'm not really sure if I really want to move up that high but I'm pretty content with the process right now.
How's salsa dancing?? I just had my fourth class, this time at The Granada, to learn more nightclub salsa instead of ballroom. I honestly like both classes…the ballroom class has some great people and The Granada teaches more "new school" salsa. I'm considering doing both. I feel like it'll open me up to meeting new women in general (kinda like speed dating, but less pressure) and if I get confident in salsa, I could go to any salsa club, dance with any girl — doesn't matter if she's experienced or totally new — and I'll be able to have fun. Let me know how that goes!
Other than that, hope you're doing well! I'm pretty happy right now. Looking forward to 2017!
—Mel, January 2017