Frank Chen

Frank Chen

2022 year in review tweet thread

Here's a TLDR of my 2022 year in review, which reflects on experiments that I did and how my thinking has changed in the past year ๐Ÿงต:

I tried freelance consulting, training like a full-time athlete, and cooking at a 2-Michelin starred kitchen.

What started all of this?

Comfort. Boredom. The lack of enthusiasm for just "the next job".

For the longest time, I didn't have the balls to admit to myself that things weren't working.

"I'm hitting my savings goals. Things are okay." โœ… "My equity is almost vested. Things are okay." โœ… "I'm still learning valuable skills. Things are okay." โœ… "I'm helping people with my work. Things are okay." โœ…

I was lying to myself. Things were not okay.

The standard response to "how are you doing" was always "eh, I'm tired".

Day to day conversations were stilted. Work was plagued with a lack of motivation and guilt. I was quite depressed.

My response was always that I needed to push harder.

Waking up is the hardest step.

The first learning was that my body has a voice. That voice was the deep sigh, the desire to quit, the feeling of being stuck.

That voice was saying something, but I had conditioned myself for the last 30 years to ignore it or rationalize it away.

Time was to be used productively. Dreams were to just remain dreams.

What I wrote about before, courage and an experimental mindset, wasn't helpful yet ( I was not ready.

There were years of hemming and hawing. Complaining. Frustration. Pushing harder, burning out.

Eventually, all it came down to was having the self-awareness to acknowledge that things weren't working. That's it.

Once I came that that conclusion, the only action left was to do something different. I left my full-time job in early 2022.

My first reaction was panic.

"Oh my god, oh my god, what am I doing, I guess I'll start networking and looking for jobs."

No. Just, no. Stop.

My second reaction was not right either, which was to immediately begin freelancing. It was marginally better, but the fact remained that after a 7 year work stint, I needed time to just live.

I needed time to decompress from a "professional identity", and just ... do shit for shit's sake.

I "professionalized" so much of my life to the extent that I constrained myself without even knowing it:

Regardless, I went ahead freelancing. (I'm a fidgety, restless type.)

I discovered how immensely freeing regaining my time was. No more back to back meetings. No more waking up at the crack-ass of dawn for international calls.

At the same time, it didn't particularly feel like a full life either. I felt like a transient interloper, drifting without a purpose.

Fundamentally, it was also the same work. "I was listening to the same track, just at a lower volume." I sensed burnout would be inevitable.

"What would it look like if I had way more fun?"

With the extra time, I took the things that I found fun at the moment - jiujitsu and cooking, and pursued them as if I was a semi-pro athlete or chef.

The goal was to experience and live. There was no outcome in mind. I just started being. Go to the hard training sessions, get my ass whooped, shell the peas, serve the food, feel the lower back pain. Just ... take action.

Today, I'm not a pro athlete, nor am I a chef. I didn't hit my savings goals this year, and I probably backslid a bunch in a supposed "career", but that's okay. I learned about myself through being and doing.

For so long, I had stories in my head about how great it would be if I could work on my own terms, or grapple for hours, or cook all day.

So, I tried it.

I learned that that you don't really know what something is like until you actually do it.

I lost purpose but regained time when moving from employee to freelancer.

I loved training jiujitsu but didn't enjoy the nerves of competing.

I loved cooking but professional cooking wasn't actually about cooking, it's about process, efficiency, and consistency.

I tried the things I thought would make me happy full-time, and found that ... there were parts of everything that suck.

It doesn't mean I won't ever do them again, it just means incorporating them into a vision of what "fun" means to me. It's almost never just black or white.

I still haven't figured it out, but this year has taught me that trending towards excitement, curiosity, and fun plays out well.

It's about fighting the urge to switch on autopilot for your life. The aim is to be "just a normal person, doing shit" - not a role, not a should, not a caricature. Curate and craft your life.

Follow your energy and don't be a midwit. Start and finish things because you are interested in them and because it's just fucking awesome. Don't overthink it, just take a step and experience it.

As I'm writing this, I'm about to start full-time employment again, but I'm listening to my energy signals.

I wouldn't go back if I didn't feel right about it. Autopilot off.

For the full post:

The path continues. Inspirations include:

The Pathless Path by Paul Millerd (@p_millerd) Die With Zero by Bill Perkins (@bp22) Essentialism by Greg McKeown (@GregoryMckeown) The 4 Hour Workweek by Tim Ferriss (@tferriss) Heat / Dirt by Bill Buford (@bill_buford)