My 2021 Annual Review: Finding The New Normal

Alfred Lua / Written on 12 December 2021

As we stepped into the second year of the pandemic, many people talked about the need to find the new normal. If I could summarize my 2021, it would be that—finding the new normal.

I got a new job after being at Buffer for 6 years. I kept up my triathlon training when there have been no races. My wife volunteered to look after COVID patients in the hospital.

It wasn't an easy year. But I'm grateful for the challenges because they pushed me, helped me find my new limits, and helped me understand myself better.

Leaving Buffer and joining ReferralCandy

At the start of the year, I turned down a great job opportunity and decided I wouldn't take up any job offers unless it is to cofound a startup or it will give me even more free time.

But as life would have it, an opportunity that I didn't realize is possible knocked on my door. I took the leap and joined ReferralCandy to lead the marketing team.

I would be lying if I say everything has been smooth sailing. But this is what I have been seeking. I dove into the deep end. Headfirst.

  • Two teammates left for different opportunities after four and six years at ReferralCandy (and I'm happy for them).
  • I hired two new teammates and am looking for another, to scale up our marketing.
  • I am in charge of performance reviews, promotions, and pay raises for my team.
  • I now have the budget to work with multiple freelancers and agencies.

And it has only been seven months. This period has been the toughest in my career so far but I have also learned and grown the most during this time.

I'm thankful to the ReferralCandy team for taking a bet on me as a first-time manager so that I can experience this.

Keeping up with my newsletter

Another highlight of my professional life this year is writing my newsletter for the past 37 consecutive weeks.

I restarted my newsletter, wanting to grow my audience. I added 100+ subscribers this year, so that aspect hasn't been that successful. But along the way, I realized that I'm writing for myself. The weekly newsletter has encouraged (or forced) me to reflect and document my learnings every week.

I wrote about marketing...

... about career and life...

The stats don't mean that much to me but I thought it might be fun to share the numbers around my personal brand:

  • My blog generated 21,159 page views so far this year.
  • I have 523 email subscribers, with a 46% average open rate and a 9% average click rate.
  • I have 5,276 Twitter followers (grown from 4,810).
  • I started posting more consistently on LinkedIn and have 1,845 followers now.

I have to say the greatest satisfaction is knowing that writing about my experiences and learnings has helped others.

Staying physically and mentally fit

It has been more than two years since I did a proper triathlon race. It has been different—both good and bad—training without any races and goals in mind. I feel less stressed about my fitness but I sometimes struggle to find the motivation to train. Thankfully, I do enjoy the process of exercising and not just the results. And I usually feel much better after working out. So my mentality has been "just wake up and get it done". I got in more than 300 sessions this year.

I was less unsuccessful with my sleep and diet goals (sleep eight hours every night and eat vegetables and fruits daily).

On the mental fitness front, I picked up meditation again near the end of the year. I tend to be able to meditate daily when I'm feeling overwhelmed but would stop once I feel better. To be fair, my workouts do feel like meditation because I would stop thinking about work and other things and focus only on the present.

I also kept up my habit of learning new things by learning about AI from a friend. I wasn't expecting I would be reading research papers after university but it has been a fun experience. I even created a simple corgi vs beagle image classifier. I'm nowhere near being an AI expert but it's nice to know it at a slightly deeper level than what I used to know, especially since AI has the potential to change our lives greatly in the future.

To more exploration

Looking ahead, into 2022, I'm keen on exploring more non-professional hobbies, on top of my usual pursuits (marketing, triathlon, books).

I recently got back to playing golf and plan to practice regularly next year. Also, I have been wanting to learn piano for many years. 2022 might be the year.

Here's to an amazing 2022!

(You can find my past annual reviews here: 2020, 2019, 2018, 2017)

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