2017 Year in Review and My 3 Words for 2018

Today is the last day of 2017. Overall, I can say this was a great year. I made many new friends and reconnected with few old ones. Work was interesting as ever, I got to work with Olympians, learned a lot in Canadian court system, got involved in projects with great educators and started editing an interesting Japanese Light Novel. I won’t say it was without a hitch though. This year also had a few bizarre business mishaps as well, but in the end, I survived.

As I look back in 2017, here are the things I learned.

1) Explore your creativity

One of the biggest things I did this year was that I started watercolour painting. I don’t have any previous experience in painting. I just started playing with paints, and my curiosity to do and learn more grew. I found out on Instagram someone was starting #The100dayproject, so I dove in.

Now, I have been terrible at continuing something all my life, let alone 100 days! I have failed many “30 day XX challenge” or “Blogging every day” sort of things. It was never my forte. But I did it. I still can’t believe I painted every day for 100 days.

After that, I was afraid my “painting fever” might be gone, like puff!, but luckily I am still interested. This winter I painted all my holiday cards I sent out to friends and family. Next year, I want to invest in some learning material – might sign up for a class (online or in my city) to brush up on some techniques. I am grateful for all your encouragement and the “tribe” on Instagram where we can ask questions about materials and motivate each other. I am also grateful I found this fun and creative thing I can do. Having a creative outlet and keep making stuff is essential to my well-being.

2) Life is short

I know this is almost too common a lesson, but I keep reminded that getting old means you encounter more losses ever since I learned it when I was in my 20s. We lost several friends and family this year, and I also saw many friends losing their loved ones, especially this winter. I also have many people who are sick, and I could be next, any day.

I know I don’t need to remind you but this is why we don’t have time for unkind or negative people in your life. Instead, I am actively working on spending time with people I actually care. No more phony “We should get together soon”. When I say that phrase, I mean it.

3) Do the things only I can do

In mid-2017, I was a little overwhelmed and had too much on my plates. I was basically doing everything I was asked to do. I was talking to a dear friend and mentioned this, and she casually said, “Well, but those are work anyone can do.” and it resonated with me so much. After that, I used the question “Is this something anyone can do, or is this something only I can do?” as a guideline when I was feeling the pressure to take on something. It helped a lot.

Every year, I pick 3 words for the year. Words for 2017 was FAITH, CREATE and JOY. I am pleased to say that I did quite well this year. I had a faith in everything I did, and I stopped panicking on every little bad thing that happened this year. I knew it would work work out in the end, and it did. I am still here. I have a roof over my head, I have food on the table, I have amazing and healthy family, I have great friends, I have interesting work. And I am enough. I created a lot of things. I put joy on higher priority in my life. I know this sounds so cliche, but I am blessed.

Happiness Jar 2017

Today, I opened my Happiness Jar as well. I’ve been doing this for few years, but it all started from Elizabeth Gilbert’s post.
I have this big flower vase, and every day I will write down something happy or positive thing about the day and put it in the jar.Sometimes I forget to do it, but that’s OK. I also put cards and letters I receive, movie tickets, and other keepsakes as well.Then I open them all at the end of the year. It is so fun to re-read the happy and funny things. This has become my annual ritual, and I highly recommend it.
After I open all the notes, I staple them onto the corresponding date in my daytimer. (I have been using HOBONICHI Techo for close to 10 years). Left one is 2017’s it’s think as I put all the Happy notes and tickers etc, right one is 2018 book, still brand new.

Now, my 3 words for 2018 will be:


MOVE – I was very fortunate to be able to go to Ottawa this fall. I also got outside Victoria few times. Every time I go out, you expend. I want to do more of that in 2018. And my first trip of 2018 will be to Japan in January for a film shoot.

STORY – One other thing I got really keen on this year was radio/podcast. I also started volunteering at a local community radio station. I’ve been thinking a lot about why I’m drawn to this medium and I think the hint is the STORY. I love storytellings too. This is just a spark, and I don’t have a clear answer, but I hope to find something by following this keyword in 2018.

COMMUNICATE – I always find 3rd word is the hardest to decide. This one is a bit of combined keyword, as initially I wanted to say WRITE, or LISTEN or OUTPUT. I want to do more writing and expressing myself in 2018, but I also want to really pay attention to listening.

I anticipate a big change in 2018 and I have no idea how my life will be affected by it. But I feel ready.

I want to thank you for reading this, and please share your post if you have a similar “3 words” or “year in review” post.

Thank you and Happy 2018!

Thinking about thinking

Last few days, I’ve been thinking about thinking. I was listening to James Altucher’s podcast interview with Sara Blakely, the founder of Spanx. She is well known for her story of constantly using failure to learn lessons. Her father would ask at dinner table, “What did you fail in this week?” and if they didn’t have anything they failed at, he’d be actually disappointed. He helped her frame it that failure isn’t about the outcome. For them, failure is about not trying. She says if something doesn’t turn out or ends up embarrassing herself, it’s not a failure. Failure is not doing something out of fear. I related to it very much. She also said she goes out of her way to embarrass herself. If too much time go on without embarrassing herself, she feels “Oh, I gotta do something” —and she’d sing in an elevator when other people were there. etc. I liked the idea. Embarrassing yourself is a good exercise to put yourself out there and be vulnerable. (Yes, this is a huge keyword for me) – She also mentioned the importance of being vulnerable. Another reason I love her.

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2016 Year in Review and My 3 Words for 2017

We didn't get Christmas tree this year. This is what I ended up doing.
We didn’t get Christmas tree this year. This is what I ended up doing.

Wow, 2016, what a year. I bet many people just cannot wait for this year to be over. This being the last week of 2016, I thought it’s time I wrote my annual year in review.

Just like for many people, my 2016 was a challenging year. I don’t mean this to be complaining. There were plenty of great things that happened this year as well, but this year was definitely the “work” part of Hero’s Journey. I know there is a reward at the end of these challenges, and I am willing to work for it, but man, it sucks to go through the actual “work” part. That’s ok. I am old enough and know better to quit.

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Living Brave


I just finished the Living Brave Semester with Brené Brown that started back in January.
This past 5 months, thousands of people around the world and myself learned together on what it means to live wholeheartedly. This was by far the best course I have ever taken.

The course covered key learnings from Brené’s books, Daring Greatly and Rising Strong.

We had new lessons open every Monday with lesson videos and exercises. Every few weeks we had breaks, (so that those of us behind can catch up), Live Q&A sessions (where my question got picked!), as well as weekly message videos from Brené.

It is impossible for me to go over everything I learned in the course, but I wanted to list a few things that made big impact on me.

1) Community and language

Watching Brené’s videos every week and doing the live Q&A really gave me the sense of community. One of the students called us “Living Bravesters” and it just stuck, and we all started calling ourselves that. Love it.

Another community was a Facebook group I created for us Japanese people who are interested in learning more about wholehearted living. I love that we started using the language from Brené’s books. One of the group member mentioned her son was talking an entrance exam for college and I called it his “arena”. Other friend was doing new things in her business and that put her in front of a large group of people – that was her arena. I really love that we started using the word “arena” as a place we are going to be brave, as per Theodore Roosevelt’s famous speech, The Man in the Arena (The title Daring Greatly comes from this speech)

CW_ArenaQuote (1)

2) Values

One of the most memorable lessons in the course was one of the earliest one. Brené used the metaphor of lantern and called it “How values light the way”. Imagine a lantern. The flame in the lantern is your core values you hold. (We did exercises to find what our core values are – mine are Courage and Kindness) Your values will light your way. Without the lantern and the flame inside it, it will be dark and you will be lost. Or, even when you have the lantern and the flame, sometimes we leave it somewhere and stray from our values. This was such a visual example and made a lot of sense to me. When I catch myself acting outside my values – like being snappy at someone or being afraid – I picture the lantern and go back to my values.

3) People Are Doing The Best They Can

This is THE biggest learning for me from her book Rising Strong. In case you haven’t read the book, let me ask you a question.

“In general, do yo think people are doing the best they can?”

How did you answer the question?

My answer was NO.  I just turned 41, and most of my life, I thought people were slackers, and I was super judgey.

This comes from perfectionism. To get the proper context I highly recommend you read the book, but we learned that when we believe people are doing the best we can, our lives are better and I feel kinder towards others, which is important to me as one of my core values is kindness. Our best is all different.

This was such a huge learning moment for me, every time I think about it, I get shivers and get a little chocked up. What have I been doing? Every time I think of the chapter in the book, it makes me want to cover my face and sob…

4) It’s all practice

We learned all these great things to help us live more wholehearted life, but we are all human. We slip. 

When we’re tired, when we are afraid, when we feel threatened….we act out way outside our values.

I’ve learned to be kind to myself, and to remind myself this is a lifelong practice. I remember in on of the weekly update videos Brené said, if we catch ourselves slipping….to celebrate it. Because it at least means we know we are slipping. The important thing it to catch us when we slip, and try again without berating ourselves.

I feel bittersweet to have finished this amazing course. There is another Living Brave Semester next year, but meanwhile there are two shorter, exciting courses coming up.

Self-Compassion with Kristin Neff and Brené Brown


We are supposed to talk to ourselves like we talk to someone we love. But why is it so hard?

“The Self-Compassion workshop combines the skills of mindfulness and self-compassion to enhance our capacity for emotional wellbeing.”

This is a four-lesson online workshop that opens on May 16, 2016.

The Gifts of Imperfect Parenting


“What would it mean for our families, our community, and even the world if a critical mass of parents raised children who knew their worth? Children who navigate the world believing, “Yes, I am imperfect and vulnerable and sometimes afraid but that doesn’t change the truth that I am also brave and worthy of love and belonging.” It doesn’t matter if your child is 4 years old, 14, or 44 – parenting is a lifetime commitment. “

Six-lesson course that begins September 26, 2016. The format sounds very much like Living Brave Semester with new lessons opening every week but mostly self-paced.

For both of these courses, I have a 30% off code so please let me know if you are signing up!

Thank you Brené, and thank you all Living Bravesters – it’s been a blast. See you in the next course 🙂