My (Last) Two Years In Review
Hello! Inspired by my friend Francois Vigneault, I’ve decided to capture what’s happened over the last year. Also, since 2020 has seemed like a time warp of sorts, I’ve also wanted to include 2019, which was also a huge year for me, before it got lost in the foggy haze of memory. Enjoy!
If you’d like to jump straight to the part where I talk about what I’m bringing forward into 2021, you can just scroll straight to the bottom.
2019 — The Year of New
I not only kicked off my own coaching business (inspired by monsters, of course), but I coached a few sessions of the altMBA as well as a session of the Bootstrapper’s Workshop for Akimbo. I figured out my coaching style and what I want to focus on for the individual work that I do. I also landed my first few private coach clients! Woo!
I did feel like I could have been more thoughtful about my overall value proposition prior to launching, but I’m definitely a “launch and iterate” kind of guy by nature, so I let that get the best of me. Not great for launching, but good for figuring out what works.
We scratched a huge bucket-list item off this year, as we finally visited my five-generations-removed ancestral homeland, Japan. E accepted an award at a film festival for a film she helped make, and we got to dress up all fancy and have in-ear live translation going. The coolest part was getting to take photos on the red carpet for the Japanese press. Snazzy!
I also went a little crazy when I found how common and cheap vinyl paint is in Japan (specifically, paint that sticks to vinyl toys). I ended up buying a ton of it, but then realized that it’s highly flammable and ended up, after desperately searching for a way to ship it all to the US and failing, ended up giving my entire bag of paint up at the airport. There is a reason it’s so hard to find stateside!
This was also a really personal trip for me, as I’ve spent the last fifteen years or so trying to figure out what it means for me to be American of Japanese Ancestry. I definitely feel more American than Japanese, but I also ended up being acutely aware of trying not to offend people in Japan, especially because most Japanese people assumed I was Japanese. I feel like this could be an entire post on its own as I don’t think I’ve taken enough time to really process the experience even though I’m writing this more than a year later.
Moving to SoCal
Saying “hella” is a hill I’m willing to die on, but pretty much the week after we returned to Japan, E got a job offer in Burbank so she rented a place for a month, we got apartment searching, and I packed/purged our San Francisco apartment for the next month.
There were a lot of learning experiences, especially as someone who has lived in the same place for thirteen years and accumulated probably four apartments worth of stuff.
Fatigue and hard deadlines help to break the emotional bond of stuff. Sadly, that meant throwing away some things that I regret (my high school yearbook, a bunch of early artwork), but it also helped me take literally an actual ton of stuff to the dump.
Packing will take more time than you think, especially if you have too much stuff. Budget your time wisely!
Clean out your refrigerator first! My compost bin ended up being way fuller than I had hoped, due to a mix of poor planning and then suddenly realizing that there was no room for food in the car for my last drive down.
The notion of “sunk costs” is your friend. I’ll leave it at that.
Fortunately, we paired down our belongings quite a bit, and ended up getting more space, so our new place seems just right, and if we ever are tempted to buy a bunch of things we don’t need, I just have to remember what it was like to move the equivalent of an entire art studio by oneself to make me think better of purchasing new things.
Also, while it’s not cheap living in Pasadena, it’s wildly different than living in San Francisco. I know friends in other parts of the country think I’m ridiculous paying the amount of rent that I am here, but considering the price of apartments in SF, I feel like I was crazy to stay for so long.
That said, I spent the first few months feeling very isolated. I was teaching online without any live interaction, and 95% of my friends and network were up in San Francisco. I am definitely incredibly grateful for the friends I do have in SoCal as well as the LA Brewskee-Ball league for welcoming me so generously into the community.
It was nice to get to visit New York again, although Skee-Ball nationals are always such a stressful time for me, I don’t visit friends, and pretty much just stay around the tournament and do a lot of thinking and meditation and catching up with friends/competitors from other cities.
I was pretty disappointed in my last team showing representing SF, but given I hadn’t really gotten the chance to practice with my team much due to the move to LA, I can’t really say that I didn’t expect the results that occurred (not making it past the group stage).
Unsurprisingly, I was most disappointed with my own performance in the individual tournament. I let myself get in my own head, and while I’d like to think that my mental game is pretty strong (especially considering I’m one of the few rollers to play completely sober), I still have a long way to go to fortify the resilience and focus of a championship roller.
Interestingly, I’m considering what sort of mindset one needs to take when you’re going up against someone you genuinely believe is a better competitor than you. I have a ton of respect and admiration for Beskeemoth, who eliminated me in the Sweet 16, but I need to figure out how to outplay those who statistically are much better than I am even though I know I can match his high scores.
I do have a lot of pride that I made it to the round I did, but I still haven’t been able to crack the Elite 8, let alone get to a championship run, so there’s a lot more work that needs to get done.
Having moved to a location with more studio space (read: a backyard), I kicked up my sculpting a notch and released two resin-cast toys. The first was a small shoggoth based on the protoplasmic creatures from The Mountains of Madness, and the second was an original creation of mine known as Mer-Rey.
I also did a limited line of painted soft vinyl toys in a collaboration of sorts with the toy designer Sea Demon Vinyl. Kevin was super cool to collaborate with, and I’m still a huge fan of his first vinyl toy, Johnny Innsmouth, which I did a few different colorways of.
To be honest, there wasn’t too much commercial success here, but it was my first foray into both a more complex line of resin casted toys (Mer-Rey is four pieces, the shoggoth is transparent and has a light inside of it) and I’m super proud of how I showed up.
While I skipped Designer Con in 2020 due to the pandemic, I’m definitely hoping that things get safe enough to do another live event in 2021.
The Brightspot..I mean, Spotlight Trust
After leaving The Lords of Print a few years ago to pursue teaching, I knew that having a good business partner really makes starting a new business much better than doing it alone. LOP was an amazing run, and I definitely couldn’t have done it without my business partner Matt. I had wondered about starting something around coaching with another altMBA coach, but while I’ve met tons of people who would be great to work with, things never quite aligned.
Until, that is, I was coaching alongside Lisa Lambert, and we teamed up to develop a practical way to approach building empathy. We had coached together before, and I knew she had her own consulting company, so I was pleasantly surprised when she asked if I wanted to collaborate again with her on a framework around trust that she had been developing.
That was in November, and by December we had built out our brand and roadmapped a pilot leadership development program around trust.
I’ve learned so much here that I could fill up a book (yes, this is foreshadowing), but trust is truly the foundation to any good working relationship. Or really, any relationship for that matter. I never thought I’d be building a business with an internet friend (we’ve talked in person a total of five minutes, max..and this was a year before we decided to work together), but here we are.
Major learning point — if you can’t talk about long-term goals, sustainability, money, ownership percentages, or exit strategies easily, you’re probably not a good fit for one another. I was happy to find that Lisa and I were incredibly aligned on all of the above topics, and we dug in early and candidly about all of that, and continue to do so at a fairly regular basis, which I find incredibly helpful.
Major learning point #2 — Make sure you do your due diligence in terms of looking into intellectual property when you’re naming your company. This was something I learned more in 2020, but I figured I’d point this out now, as I wish we had learned that early on. Damn you, Brightspot CRM!
There were tons of changes in 2019, and starting up my collaboration with Lisa is a great way to lead into the year that will define a generation: 2020.
2020- The Year of the Habit
Shelter-in-Place / COVID / 2020 = Terrible
Might as well just get this out of the way, since COVID-19 has basically defined the year for the planet.
While this year has basically been a dumpster fire for many, I’m grateful to be able to say that this year wasn’t a complete mess for me. That said, I had some relatives die, friends got COVID, I found out an ex-girlfriend from college just died, in October the Bobcat fire had us under constant threat of evacuation for about a month (talk about stressful!), and since I’ve been working remotely since moving down to Pasadena, I’ve stayed at home for a majority of the past 17 months.
On the plus side, I’m extremely grateful for the privilege of being able to work from home and to be able to have groceries shopped for me and delivered to my trunk without any other human contact. I’ve got a backyard (thank goodness we moved pre-pandemic) and a garden to take care of, haven’t gotten sick yet, and have been able to pay our bills every month, so there’s not a whole lot for me to complain about.
Once again, facing death or the complete loss of all the things you own really puts a lot of things into perspective, and I’ve learned a lot about what’s important to me.
Phew, Seth Godin recently shared a list of the coach teams that make up the Akimbo Workshops, and I realized how often I coached this year. The plus is that I got to work with amazing humans, and piloted a lot of new programs. From hosting the first three Real Skills Conferences, piloting a session of altMBA with only directors and VPs of Fortune 50 companies, and Head Coaching a brand new workshop called Small Business Essentials, I’m super stoked about all of the new skills and programs I got to help launch.
Akimbo also made the transition to a B-Corp this year, and has focused to specifically tackle white supremacist language, assumptions, and behaviors in the programs and coaching community, and while dismantling an ingrained belief structure is difficult work, I’m really proud of the work I’ve been able to help facilitate towards a more inclusive community.
Things to improve upon: Head Coaching both altMBA and Small Business Essentials for the first time this year was really challenging but also fun, and now that I’ve got one session of each under my belt, I feel like if I get the opportunity to do so again next year I can better schedule in things that need to get done ahead of time, as I often felt like I was scrambling to get things done at the last minute.
Additionally, there’s always more work to be done to end systemic racism (obviously), and I look forward to helping steward more positive changes towards equity and belonging.
I was stoked to start off the year working on launching a pilot leadership training program, and after running the pilot in February, I was really excited to bring a Trust-Centered focus into more companies.
It was exciting to already get a few consulting clients lined up in February shortly after launching as The Brightspot Trust, but after COVID came up and everyone suddenly found themselves reeling, funding dried up and we lost those clients. We pivoted towards running online training experience for the skills needed to survive in COVID, like digital facilitation and job skills, and then have since pivoted back towards organizational leadership consultation work.
As per the above point, we rebranded to Spotlight Trust, and we’re very happy about the change, as we managed to keep the relative design and feel of our branding intact.
We also launched a podcast, In Trust, and have interviewed a bunch of amazing leaders to get firsthand knowledge of trust in action. This has been a huge learning curve in itself for me, from interviewing well and asking good questions, to also facing all of my verbal tics and bad habits.
Throwing that on the list of things I’m working on in 2021: Eliminating verbal fillers, and not asking “Right?” after every declarative sentence.
Additionally, we’re in the editing stage of our first book (!) and are excited to be bringing that to the market early next year. Learning about self-publishing here we go!
Finally, we also managed to host two amazing panel discussions on the topic of medical mistrust. While I learned a ton about webinars, the backend of event registration, automation, and medical mistrust, my one small regret is the video formatting of the first panel.
That said, to be honest, holding those conversations and advancing this important issue felt like one of the most important things I’ve done in my life, so I’m really proud of the work I’ve done this year and I’m looking forward to sharing these conversations widely in a week or so. Stay tuned!
Inner Monster Podcast
I also launched my own solo podcast, the Inner Monster Podcast!
This is definitely a labor of love, as it combines short horror fiction with mythological histories of monsters and then ties it all together with a second half filled with personal and leadership development training.
I still don’t know who my audience is exactly, or how to find them, but I’m proud of the product and the fact that I even have an audience of 10 is pretty amazing to me.
There is so much to learn in this field, from audio engineering and sound design, to storytelling, to marketing to figuring out if this is something anyone even wants, but it’s been rewarding to at least make the damn thing.
My goals here are to basically just keep the podcast going, and if after a year’s worth of episodes it’s still not gaining any traction, I can let it go. But I’ve given it a year to find it’s footing (which is just steady growth, nothing too ambitious here), and if anything I now can say I’ve launched a podcast!
Also, I got to guest on a few other podcasts, so that was a nice bonus. If you have a podcast and you want someone to rant/speak about education, leadership, trust, Skee-Ball, or monsters, hit me up!
I got into the habit of writing for at least 15 minutes every day in April, and went on a continuous streak from April 1 to December 4th.
I tried to do the pushup challenge again (100 continuous push ups) and sort of fell off the wagon when I was getting to around 50 pushups.
I got back into Duolingo (my goal is to eventually be able to conduct toy-making business in Japan) and am close to a four-month streak as of writing this.
All in all, this year I’ve found the power of habitual forward motion, and perhaps this year was the Year of the Habit for me.
I’ve created a tracking sheet to capture the habits I’m trying to build (writing, visual art making, learning, daily pushups, and Duolingo practice), and it makes the process much more manageable and focused.
I’ve learned that small movements towards huge ambitious goals is the way to go about things, so it’s nice to carve out a little over an hour of time per day for these things that I want to prioritize in my life.
I’m a little disappointed I broke my eight-month daily writing streak, but I’ve realized it’s not about the streak for me, but about the consistent forward motion. And hey, it’s never too late to start up a new run. I could beat myself up for it (in 2018 after I lost a 100-day Duolingo streak due to the software and I got angry and stopped using the app out of anger), or I could just start over and build up the habit again. Regardless, I’ve been publishing new writing daily for the past few months, and that’s a habit I’m looking to keep going for the foreseeable future.
Things to Take Forward, Things to Leave Behind
There’s a lot of things that actually worked well in 2020 that I want to bring forward into 2021.
Collaboration — I’ve been able to do so much more this year due to collaborating with people. Whether it’s writing a book, building a company (thanks Lisa!) or hosting a panel discussion on medical mistrust (thanks Shannon and Laura!), so much more has gotten done thanks to working with other people.
Habits/Routines — I feel like I’m making a lot of forward motion in terms of things like my personal writing, visual art, and learning Japanese, mainly due to the forward motion that doing small things daily gets you. I now have to extend these habits to sales and marketing efforts as well. I’m also hoping to finish a screenplay next year, so I’m hoping the small forward motion takes care of that goal naturally.
Gratitude — With such a seemingly cataclysmic year behind us, I’m so grateful for the things I do have. Realizing my immense privilege and luck to be where I am doing what I do makes me 100% certain I don’t want to lose sight of how fortunate I am. Go go gratitude!
Things to leave behind?
COVID — I miss playing Skee-ball with friends, high-fives, and playing board games with people. I want to travel again, and see new places and go to someplace that isn’t a grocery store.
Fear of Selling — I honestly hate outbound sales, or actively going up to people and asking if my services could help people, but I need to get way better at it, as any entrepreneur needs to do. I do pride myself that I’m a killer salesperson once I get a meeting, but cold calls and cold emails are not my jam, but it’s something that I need to get comfortable with.
Sloth Form — When you’ve been working from home for 17 months, it’s tempting to just sit on your couch all day in front of a laptop or computer. Fortunately E likes physical activity and has been dragging me out on walks the past few months, but I need to stop relying on her to get me to exercise and start up exercising again. I also need to let go of thinking that I’m 18 and able to suddenly start up intensive exercise programs, when the reality of my joints and cardiovascular health might need some time to build back up.
Phew. So that’s my year(s) in review, and while I know years are really just social constructs, I’m looking forward to the next one to see what adventures will come and how I’ll grow this time.