2014 Year-in-Review


Inspired by James Clear’s annual review post, I decided to create a version of my own, including the things that worked, the things that could be improved, and the things I need to focus on for the year of 2015. Borrowing the format from James, here are the 3 questions I am attempting to answer:

1 – What went well this year?

2 – What didn’t go so well this year?

3 – What am I working toward?

For each question, I will provide areas that are important in my life and tailor them for specificity and number crunching. Let’s get to it!

1 – What went well this year?

Career Readiness. I can say that I am quite proud of myself to know exactly what kind of things I want to do with my life after higher education. The three months spent back home in Vietnam was indeed perfect for me to reflect and explore new opportunities online. I fell in love with entrepreneurship and the tech start-up world. How did that happen?

  • I watched over 100 TED talks over the last 6 months.
  • I subscribed to more than 40 entrepreneurship and tech-related websites since June including Mashable, Fast Company, Entrepreneur.com, Tech in Asia, The Muse, HubSpot, Venture Beat, General Assembly, Tech Crunch, Business Insider.
  • I followed more than 150 big business people and role-model entrepreneurs of the world via their social media channels such as Marie Forleo, Seth Godin, Tony Hsieh, Tim Ferriss, Guy Kawasaki, Tony Robbins, Richard Branson.
  • I followed the blogs of awesome entrepreneurs like James Clear and Mark Manson and inspiring start-ups like Koru and Medium.
  • I built a strong online presence across LinkedIn, Twitter, WordPress, About.Me and on my quest to approach Strikingly and Quora.

Most of all, I kept my email inboxes busy with newsletters, then as I read interesting articles that I found helpful, I shared them across my social media channels. It is a simple procedure that allowed me to stay active online and engaged with the professional community I am passionate.

Involvement. Staying involved in college kept me busy and interacted with people all the time. I truly love the small environment in Denison because it makes it way easier to get involved and take advantage of the resources offered by the institution. Additionally, I hone special leadership and communication skills, mostly thanks to being part of those student-run organizations:

  • I moved up into leadership role in 3 different organizations I am involved with.
  • I joined Beta Theta Pi, which is an incredible environment to learn and lead.
  • I had 4 different jobs on campus and worked 20 hours per week, which provided enough money for me to travel over the breaks.

Overall, I see the value of this liberal arts education and believe that every penny my parents are spending for it is worthy.

Networking. Definitely the thing I have been working on and seeing significant improvements. “It is not what you know, but who you know that get you the job” – I heard this saying so many times from many professionals I have had a chance to meet over the past year. Networking skill, therefore, is essential to learn if you want to land a job in an increasingly competitive workforce.

  • IM Venture and VietAbroader over the summer brought me a host of fellow Vietnamese networks, which have been keeping me connected to the motherland.
  • CEO over the Halloween weekend connected with me many young entrepreneurs across the US who are owning 6-figure business and having sharply entrepreneurial spirit.
  • The Denison alumnae network is incredibly helpful: Early January, I did 3 externships in New York and Cleveland with 4 alumni. This break alone, I am meeting with at least 10 alumi/ae (9 of them are in the Texas area) from a variety of industries who subsequently introduce me to other connections.

Traveling. I visited 15 major cities in 8 states in 2014, and most of them are new. These numbers are amazing compared to my life before college, mostly thanks to Couch Surfing and Airbnb. Here are the highlights:

  • 15 cities: Boston, New York, Cleveland, Selma, Montgomery, Detroit, Ann Arbor, Orlando, Chicago, Memphis, Little Rock, Oklahoma City, Dallas, Austin, San Antonio.
  • 8 states: Massachusetts, New York, Alabama, Michigan, Florida, Illinois, Tennessee, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Texas, and Missouri (in a week).

Along with traveling, I greatly enhanced my travel photography skills. Capturing amazing architects from different cities I visited has always been a great pleasure. You can check out my 500px account to see some of my works.

2 – What didn’t go so well this year?

Grades. I enjoy the academics at Denison and significantly improve my critical thinking skills; nevertheless, my grades did appear to move downward. My biggest problem is that I struggled to input enough time into preparing for an exam or carefully crafting a paper. It’s not so much that I did not enjoy the classes, but it’s more about me balancing time distribution between academics, involvement and on-campus jobs.

Exercising. This is a huge category I need to focus on if I want my life to be more balanced physically and mentally. Multiple studies suggest that exercising provides extreme benefits to a person’s psychology and brings him positive mentality. I struggled to find a routine work out habits – between morning and afternoon workouts. Next semester, I would love to experiment morning running and afternoon lifting to keep my biochemistry in shape.

Sleep. Honestly, in average, I slept about 5 to 6 hour every night last year, which was unhealthy. Again, time management has always been a big issue, and I couldn’t help but let it interfere with my health. And yet, I barely allowed myself to rest properly at night. My lack of sleep is a reminder that behavior change is difficult.

3 – What am I working toward?

There are so many things I want to focus on in 2015, but below are some of the most important.

Writing. Since I started reading about online marketing and digital communications, I have come into recognize the importance of original written content. Thus, I started my WordPress personal blog in June and since then have published 64 posts. I believe that the only way to improve my writing skill is to write a lot. For the next year, I want to be more consistent and stick with a writing habit, so I am designing a schedule to write at least 2 posts per month, or even more, 1 posts per week.

Programming. Starting the Computer Science major track quite late at Denison, I definitely need to learn coding a lot more to keep up with the heavy demand for high-skilled programmers in the tech industry. Here are specific steps I plan to implement:

  • Take at least 2 CS courses per semester – starting with 173 and 210 for the spring.
  • Diversify my programming languages with Codecademy.
  • Take extra technical classes with Coursera, Udacity, and Udemy.
  • Join the GitHub community and actively contribute to different projects.

Reading. Thanks to my good friend Rex, I recently have finished reading Tony Robbins’ Money: Master of the Game, which is an awesome book to get your financial life straight. Reading a book outside of classes really relaxes my mind and also significantly equipped myself with knowledge about topics I am interested in. Here are some of the books I plan to read in 2015:

  • Simon Sinek’s Leaders Eat Last.
  • Nir Eyal’s How to Build Habit-Forming Products.
  • Daniel Pink’s To Sell is Human.
  • Susan Cain’s Quiet.
  • Elizabeth Gilbert’s The Signature of All Things.

The common denominator for all of these activities is building healthy habits. Identifying them with the S.M.A.R.T-goal approach, I believe that they will significantly improve my life.

Last night, I was watching the fireworks from the Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge in Dallas Skyline area. It’s amazing how I have experienced New Year Eve in different circumstances over the past 5 years. Each year came with a new hope and new ambitions…

Wishing you a happy, prosperous and successful new year! Happy 2015!





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