avatarJohnny T. Nguyen


My 2023 Year-End Review

Buckle in, it’s a long writeup today.

Photo of author in Santorini, Greece, during a blackout with a full moon!

Recent trip to Oia, Santorini, Greece. Night time blackout with a full Moon. Photo by my lovely wife.

I started this year’s goals with the intent of improving my performance and health, adopting the dual approach of big themes and 1% improvements, made popular in recent times by the overhyped-but-I-can’t-help-quoting-him James Clear.

“Making a choice that is 1% better or 1% worse is insignificant in the moment. But over the span of moments that make up a lifetime, these choices determine the difference between who you are and who you could be.” — James Clear

As the year draws to a close, it’s time to reflect on how it went. I don’t have the capability nor am important enough like Chris Guillebeau, who apparently goes off the grid to conduct his. Maybe one day but until then, I’m doing the next best thing — grabbing a cup of cold brew coffee at 5 AM when the house is quiet and contemplating. #coffeeandcontemplation

Method 1: James Clear

James Clear, author of the bestseller Atomic Habits, has a simple method, just answer these 3 questions:

  • What went well this year?
  • What didn’t go well this year?
  • What did I learn this year?

What went well this year?

Stress and injury-proofing microgoals went very well this year. I laid out a plethora of micro aims this year, including cold showers, fasting once a month, more yoga, and paying attention to my amount of sleep and meditation. Across the board, I’m quite satisfied with my commitment and follow-through to them. The benefits might have been getting less severely sick, as evidenced by my wife and baby getting sick but not so much for me. These microgoals are mainly about 1% improvements that compound over time, so, let’s check in 10 years from now. GRADE: A

Relationships are above all, the most important thing in life. But I’m commenting about them strictly in the context of productivity and positivity because otherwise, this entire article would be about how amazing my wife and baby are! ;) I might be a social animal (all humans are), requiring social connection to feel well-balanced and have an optimum mindset… to then be productive and positive. I recall last year’s review where due to the pandemic causing lower social interactions I felt impatient with myself and others. This year I tracked each week who I was having social interactions with, if it was enough, and if it resulted in a net positive or negative reaction. GRADE: B+

Expanding my mindset and philosophy on life. Several quotes and lessons this year have seeped deep into my psyche, now forming the foundation of a new personal philosophy. This has helped me tremendously deal with the most stressful moments in my life this year. GRADE: 🤯

  1. Every emotion has a beginning and an end. You may not recall when the emotion began, but you know it will end, just like all previous times. So if you’re going through a stressful moment, just remember this too will pass. (Learned from Andy Puddicombe on Headspace)
  2. “Don’t you see the plants, the birds, the ants and spiders and bees going about their individual tasks, putting the world in order, as best they can? And you’re not willing to do your job as a human being? Why aren’t you running to do what your nature demands?” — Marcus Aurelius, Meditations
  3. An accumulation of the Yuval Harari books — Sapiens, Homo Deus, then 21 Lessons for the 21st Century — led me to grasp the millions of years humans have been in existence, against the backdrop of the billions of years of the universe. Nothing I do will matter, except to try and be a good person and raise a good human being.
  4. “You keep asking why your work is not enough, and I don’t know how to answer that, because it is enough to exist in the world and marvel at it. You don’t need to justify that to earn it. You are allowed to just live. That is all most animals do.” — Becky Chambers, A Psalm for the Wild Built

Venture Out guests! This year I had the privilege of meeting and interviewing some really awesome people, still can’t believe it! Of the bunch, let me highlight comic artist and storyteller Mike Maihack who I felt like I bonded with. My role model, Ben Saunders, world record holder for an unassisted human-powered hike to the South Pole! And, of course, Nike and MasterClass trainer Joe Holder, dropping words of wisdom. GRADE: A

What didn’t go well this year?

Relationships. Wait, hold up, didn’t I just say it went well?! Well, not all of them did. In previous years, the most stressful relationship has been with my aging parents and what to do with them, to get them into a more stable living situation. My dad passed away this year, thereby resolving that kind of situation but then starting a new kind of situation with my mom. In some aspects, this has been even more challenging with no resolution in sight. My definition of resilience is not giving up as long as there are options for solutions. But when no solution comes to mind… GRADE: D

Darn dry eyes. The year started off pretty rough with my eyes feeling the sensation of burning and scratchy, but it’s gotten milder by now. Dry eyes are induced likely by too much screen time (did you know staring at a screen causes you not to blink as often, thereby the eyes don’t get lubricated enough?) and hitting mid-40s. Been taking progressively increasing steps to remedy it, with prescriptions, warm eye compresses, and others. Will keep ratcheting up the medical campaign to resolve this once and for all in the next year. GRADE: C

Paying attention to Venture Out and personal finances. Hate to admit I’ve been on autopilot for a bit regarding my finances and investments. One of my goals this year was to get Venture Out to at least break even (all previous years I’ve been operating at a loss), and last year made big strides to reduce operation costs (switching from MailChimp to Substack has been a game-changer!). I am happy to say I achieved breakeven, thanks to Substack subscribers. Will endeavor to be more proactive about this in the new year by coming up with more exciting Venture Out events and collabs, which I hope will earn more subscribers. GRADE: C

What did I learn this year?

Productivity should be able to happen anywhere, not only at Starbucks. And yet, I love the deep work time I get from sitting at Starbucks. With a baby and an erratic schedule, I’ve had to get more inventive with when and where I get time to produce Venture Out content. The lesson going forward is to not become dependent on this third place but find a way to expand into multiple locations where I can slip into a productive zone. Big thanks to my ultra-supportive wife, love you.

Generational trauma is real. Every parent passes down something that the child will have to grow up dealing with. The goal, I think, is to be mindful of what you’re passing down — hopefully way more good and not much bad. I’ve been confronting more of them this year than ever, due to the arrival of my baby and the passing of my father (they got to meet each other at least!). That’s why I’m always smiling anytime I’m near my baby. I want her to feel happy and know she’s in a safe environment. Time will tell how much I’ll be like my parents, how much generation trauma I can prevent, and which ones I’ll inflict myself.

Modern selfishness. I read an article a while back about modern fatherhood and how there’s supposedly more of a tension between the needs of the individual and the needs of the family these days. How the dad is just a person who still wants to do things for himself, like exercise, watch football, hang out with the guys, etc. But obviously, he’s a dad with baby responsibilities now, hopefully sharing the workload with his partner fairly. That balancing act is real, it’s constant, and it takes active thought to overcome.

Method 2: Tim Ferriss

His method asks us to look back on the year, event by event, and pick out the ones we deem positive and those that are negative. And then do more of the positives next year and eliminate the negatives.


Date nights. I love spending time with my wife. It was important to us that after we had our little baby dragon we still make time for ourselves, and had the luxury to do so when her parents were here to babysit the kiddo. When the parents weren’t here, we made efforts to go out with the little one and enjoy each other’s company and conversation.

Friends viewing party. Combining two of my loves — friends and watching TV, is a sure way to have a great time. In previous years we would pick a show and watch each episode together, preceded by a hosted dinner and ending with a conversation about what we just watched. With time more limited, we’ve resorted to watching only the finale episode together. This year we got together for HBO’s Last of Us and Apple’s Foundation. Looking forward to next year’s!

Moving in the morning. It’s now habitual to do some sort of movement in the morning, whether it’s a quick yoga course, bike riding to Starbucks, or a full-on workout. It now feels weird to go immediately from wake-up to the computer desk, which I’m glad for.

Venture Out collabs. Through cold asks over social media, I’ve been very lucky and grateful to have had the opportunity to chat with, learn from, and in one case, actually meet in person some role models! Definitely plan on doing much more of this in the coming year.

Amazing adventures. The year started with a babymoon vacation to San Andros, Bahamas at the amazing Caerula Mar beachside resort and ended with a month in Greece, on the tiny island of Santorini and then the largest in the Mediterranean, Crete. Once-in-a-lifetime type events.


My childhood upbringing full of guilt trips has led me to dwell and stress about relationships, mainly about my parents. I know I do this and yet I can’t stop it. Meditation has helped, as well as some new advice that helps me get thru a day.

Not enough time for intense workouts, because it’s not the most important thing right now. But I sure am looking forward to getting more space for this. I used to be able to get a full sweat almost every day. These days, not so much.

On the edge of sleep. This should prob be in the positive column, given the amount of sleep that I do get given I have a baby! My kiddo is an absolute dream come true. After telling a friend about how our baby gets up once or twice a night but otherwise sleeps through the night, she said, “oh, you got one of those babies.” Hehe. And yet, sleep is uber important and I need to make sure I get enough, for my long-term health and my optimum performance for the sake of my family.


I only have one tool to solve problems, and I need more tools if I’m to do better in the future. The tool I’m speaking of is my time and energy management. If I encounter a problem, I simply prioritize and make time for it, which means something else falls off the list. It’s a constant jiggling of priorities, as I think life should be. I do think all the books, meditation, and exercise tips I’ve collected over the years are compounding into a new life philosophy.

Friends and family are the best. Zero doubt in this regard, that being with friends and family is solid gold. Without them, I get imbalanced and bad traits pop out, without me even knowing it. (Add that to the list of things to meditate on.)

Keep moving or lose it. I was extremely fortunate and got to spend a month in Greece. That meant not the ideal workout setup and I couldn’t quite find a good running rhythm. When I got back home, I went for a normal run (about 3 miles), and wow did it kick my butt. I decided to salvage that workout by doing some all-out level 10 sprints and holy cow were my joints creaking that night. If I have aspirations to be sprinting when I’m well into my 80s, then I need to keep my health and movement in tip-top shape.


Yeah, it was a long review this year, thanks for hanging in there. Your takeaway I hope is that you learned something for yourself in there, that you can live vicariously through me and leverage my past year to make your future years better.

(more year-end stuff)

My 2023 Year End List of movies, series, books, music, and everything entertainment.

2024 Reading List for Productivity & Positivity

Year In Review
Personal Review
Personal Reflection
Recommended from ReadMedium