Twenty fifteen was a pretty darn amazing year.
I paused design school, my social circle and my worldview for one year on the other side of the world. I did an internship at a tech startup and studied in an entrepreneurship school. In order to take advantage of this mega opportunity, I knew I had to fully immerse myself into that life abroad.
Being exposed to the world out there, I discovered that there are more possibilities to all my previous conceptions about the world. I am no longer constrained to accept everything as is. My world suddenly grew bigger.
I did a ton of things. Instead of presenting a bucket list of achievements, I would like to share some of my most significant learnings I’ve gained throughout this journey.
This marked my launch into the startup ecosystem and my design career. I spent a big chunk of my time there on the internship and dedicated an article on the Intern’s Lessons.
In the grand scheme of life, one year is actually pretty short. To think of it, an entire human lifespan isn’t that long either. You can’t afford to do everything in a lifetime. You have to deliberately choose how to spend it. If you don’t make that decision, someone else is going to do it for you, be it your parents, best friends or life just getting in the way.
I learnt the importance of designing my life, by making intentional and deliberate choices on how I choose to spend my life. Every decision has its opportunity costs and tradeoffs. Focus is choosing what to do, and what not to do. Inspired by minimalist Scandinavian culture, insightful conversations and occasional zenhabits brainwashing, I’ve chosen some values that I would like to bring back with me.
Lagom: the sweet spot between abundance and minimalism. Just enough, not too little and not too much.
Quality > Quantity: I only need a few really great things like material possessions, apps and friends.
God is in the details: It’s the small little elements that differentiates good from great.
Mental and physical fitness: Live slowly and move my butt to keep my long term sanity.
Practical: Do things that make me happy and not just for the sake of tradition, prestige or ego.
#2 Go big and go small
In order to find out what we truly love in life, I think it is really important to continuously go through two distinct phases — diverge and converge. First, go big, explore and try million different things. Then, narrow down to the ones you like.
By having them split into two different phases, it takes the pressure away from you having to know what you’re supposed to love. It’s okay to not know now, but it’s important that you’re trying to find out. I’m a big preacher of “If you don’t try, you’ll never know”.
This is the double diamond model borrowed from design thinking methodology, but I realized how applicable it is to many other aspects in life. It can be used when writing an article, discovering passions or even finding your peers.
Being my first time beyond South East Asia, I wanted to travel everywhere in Europe with everyone. Bring it on, I said. As I collected miles, I uncover my preferences for travelling. I find that the people I meet and the people I travel with are more important than the destination. I find out that experiences are more memorable than objects. I find out that I would rather spend more time in a city than cover more cities.
#3 Talk to people
Hear their stories and allow your perspectives to be challenged. Learn about the world from theirs. Attend meetups, conferences, festivals and talk to strangers, neighbours and friends. Have meaningful conversations over coffee or meals.
Most influential conversations of the year:
Eric: He taught me how less is more and to be humble because you can always learn something new from everyone.
Martin: He challenged me to go outside and talk to people and to capture the learnings in blog posts every single week. Start now.
Nils: He brought up how consultancies are an education place to jumpstart learning because there is time learn from a variety of industries.
Per: He inspired me to have a larger purpose for design and to consider more perspectives on a product such as the working conditions of factory workers and end of life process.
2015 has been monumental for me. Being away from all previous expectations and commitments has freed me to pursue a million different experiences.
For the first time in my life, I am awakened to alternatives. I have the power to select my ideals and create the world in which I want to believe in.
Thank you 2015.