TOBY NG

2019 Review

2019 has been a great year with many different learning experiences! Of course it could not have been done with the help of many people, so here are three separate lists: Top 7 Learning Experiences, Top 12 Books, & Top 10 Moments of Gratitude

Here are my top 7 learning experiences:

1) Canada Winter Games:
It was a great experience in coaching and managing a team, and working with another coach. There was a lot of work in organizing and ensuring all the players were able to perform their best, but we did get a lot of help from Team BC staff and competition organizers. In the end we finished with some great results and lifelong memories. For many it could be a stepping stone to greater things, and it was one of my most memorable experiences of the year.

2) Western Canadian Team Championships:
This experience was similar to the Canada Winter Games, except I did more organization for the event. This included budgeting and other tasks I had not done before, but the event went well with the help of many people. Despite some ambitious changes from previous years, things worked out and it was a great learning experience in event management and also in hosting and presenting a coaching workshop. I do hope for more opportunities in the future.

3) Wedding:
Including the many events that led up to the wedding, it was an opportunity to practice patience. Money was always a big factor as communication was not always clear between everyone, which compounded matters many times. I learned that people have different perspectives about money, and these differences often lead to conflicts due to lack of communication. Additionally, the value of certain things are often different to people, and I have learned that "face" has an inflated value most of the time. But there are also those who have been extremely supportive and genuinely happy for us, and that really makes the difference in the end.

4) Moving:
Moving is never easy, because it includes a lot of decluttering and discarding. I was fortunate to be able to give away many things over the years, and there wasn't anything I missed. The experience is always valuable because I often need to consider what I really want in life, and when there are limits it helps to isolate things I truly value. Additionally, the move will help with the next one and I hope I can continue to discard what is not useful, and to keep what is essential.

5) Hosting a Large Dinner:
With the help of my wife, we were able to host a few larger dinners (e.g. Thanksgiving & Christmas) and it has been an incredible learning experience throughout, especially figuring out how to roast a turkey for the first time! With the help from the internet and many YouTube videos, it was great to put lessons into practice and provide a meal to many of our friends and family. I am appreciating more of the trial and error process, and learning how to adapt to new situations especially when things don't go exactly as planned. I also hope to continue cooking and learning new recipes, so I can eat at home more often... and maybe someday, become a MasterChef! Just kidding.

6) Dearly Beloved Concert Paraphrase:
Although I'm not new to piano, I never really understood how to appreciate the process until much later, partly because of my background in badminton. Typically, it's easy to go through the motions and I don't think I ever really understood how to practice piano and why technique is important, but translating principles from badminton into piano has been very interesting. I really enjoy this piece from the Kingdom Hearts Piano Collections, but I didn't think I could ever be able to play it. But I decided to try anyway and learned to break the song into little pieces and applied deliberate practice principles to learn the piece. Although it's nowhere near good even (maybe half-decent at best), being able to play the piece through even at a slower speed has been an achievement in itself.

7) Master's Degree Research Process:
I'm still not finished, but I think I'm almost there. The whole process for the research project has been a very interesting experience, with times of frustration and humility. Going through research ethics, data collection, and statistical analysis has been tedious at times, but I do appreciate the experience overall. Things are often not as black and white as they might seem, and often times, it's better to keep things simple. However, I did choose to continue learning some programming over using a simpler piece of statistical software, and although it has taken me a lot more time, I think it was the right choice as I will have future benefits of learning data visualizations in the R programming language. Though I'm still nowhere good at it, the learning experience has been rewarding.


As I've read a lot of books this year, I'm starting to re-read some better ones because there are way too many books to read! However this has been a great year for reading and here are my top 12 favourites of the year, with a lesson or two from each one:

1) "Never Split the Difference" - Chris Voss
Negotiation is a collaboration, not a confrontation. Gather more information by mirroring, labeling, and in some cases, ask: "How am I supposed to do that?"

2) "Digital Minimalism" - Cal Newport
Have a Philosophy for Technological Use; don't click "like" because the more you use social media to interact with your network, the less time you devote to people offline.

3) "Fluent Forever" - Gabriel Wyner
Learn pronunciation and try to copy how something sounds in another language before worrying about grammar and other technical parts to the language. I suppose it's engaging in more trial and error, where there is very little repercussion for making a mistake because most people will correct you if they don't understand what you're trying to say.

4) "Recovery: Freedom From Our Addictions" - Russel Brand
Although it's heavily based on the 12-Steps, Brand puts his personal spin on things and it becomes an interesting read as he includes many personal anecdotes. One key takeaway is overcoming whatever obstacle just one day at a time, and not to worry about the future.

5) "Antifragile" - Nassim Nicholas Taleb
The opposite of fragility is not robustness, but rather antifragility. Random events are not good for fragile things, whereas robustness can typically bear the burden of random events with minimal change. However, antifragility is supposed to be benefiting from random events. This might be one of my favourite lessons of the year.

6) "Why We Sleep" - Matthew Walker
Lots of little tips in this book, but basically sleep is absoultely crucial for recovery, and many factors can affect sleep, including caffeine and alcohol. There's much more information regarding sleep cycles, non-REM & REM sleep, and many other topics but the key takeaway is that if you are not getting enough sleep, everything you do will be negatively impacted in some way.

7) "Skin in the Game" - Nassim Nicholas Taleb
An extension from the end of "Antifragle", but another valuable lesson to consider asymmetries in many things in life. For example, how often do we have people make decisions for others in a way that there is no personal stake in it for the decision makers? For example, in badminton, when a coach tells you what to do, is it what you're supposed to do, or what they would do if they were playing the match instead? Think about what this is implying in different situations: if the coach has playing experience greater than the level of competition for your match, if the coach has playing experience LESS than the level of competition for your match, or even if the coach has NO playing experience. Many times, all three conditions may give you the same tactic, but when might it be different? And when it is different, what might you decide? 

Anyway, a key lesson from this book is to acknowledge the "Silver Rule": DON'T do to others what you DON'T want them to do to you (the negative version of the "Golden Rule").

8) "Ultralearning" - Scott Young
Highly recommend this book for self-learners, and I'm hoping to try some of these principles in new projects I will be attempting this year! One of the things I like about this concept is to try to be more action oriented, for example doing problem sets is much better than listening passively to lectures.

9) "Algorithms To Live By" - Brian Christian & Tom Griffiths
Although there are some mixed reviews from this book, my computer science background is minimal, so I enjoyed a lot of the concepts in this book, including scheduling and my personal favourite, explore vs exploit. Explore vs exploit is basically choosing between doing something new, or going with something trusted. Typically, you're more likely to be less satisfied trying to find something new, because there is no guarantee that it will be something you like, or even better than what you normally prefer. Exploiting is typically a great choice because you know you enjoy it. Choosing where to eat is often a good example. However, exploiting often comes because it was once a decision to explore, so that's something I am considering now with reading new books.

10) "Stillness is the Key" - Ryan Holiday
I'm a huge fan of Ryan Holiday's work on Stoic philosophy and I was able to get a signed copy of this book! This is the 3rd book of a series of three (i.e. "The Obstacle is the Way", and "Ego is the Enemy"), and I love them all, although the first two are more relatable for me. However, some really good lessons from this book as well, including the concept of "enough". Knowing when it's time to stop because continuing to go on just because you can sometimes is a bad decision. 

For example, even as I look back on my badminton career, there were a few times where I could have said "enough", but I continued on regardless. For the first year or so, Tokyo was a possibility even though I knew it would just be making it to the event with little change in overall result (i.e. I was unlikely to do better than how I did in London). Fortunately, some events made it difficult to continue and I also made a move to ensure there was little chance of changing my mind, as I set my wedding date in between Pan Am Games and World Championships this year, meaning that there was no chance of going to either event because of the wedding, as those events are critical for World Ranking points (my wedding date was set 1.5 years in advance). A new concept I'm trying to apply more regularly as well is: "Done is better than perfect."

11) "Essentialism" - Greg McKeown
One of the main principles is trying to create a "less, but better" effect in much of the things I do. This will definitely be useful when cleaning out stuff and some strategies include asking yourself if you "LOVE" it (only keep what you really love), and also asking yourself if you had to buy it again, how much would you pay for it. I like this process a bit better than, "Does it spark joy", because I'm can't quite define joy as well as I can quantify how much I would pay for something again.

12) "Talking To Strangers" - Malcolm Gladwell
I got this on a Kindle deal for $5, and I had no idea what to expect. But once I started reading, I was hooked and finished the book in a couple of days. The book gives different cases of human psychology and behaviour, particularly how we judge a stranger with very little information. Defaulting to the truth is something that many of us do, which is why it is hard for many of us to take action when something really bad might be happening. In hindsight, it's easy to see those signals but in the moment, we default to truth until the warning signs are so severe that we change our minds. Other concepts from the book are the illusion that people are transparent (i.e. a person's expressions tell how they feel) and cases of mismatching, where people might act differently than what you might expect. For example, someone who is telling the truth may be anxious for a different reason, which make it look like they are lying on the surface.

This last part is simply me expressing gratitude to many of the people who made 2019 a great year! Thank you all and wishing everyone a wonderful 2020!

Top 10 Highlights of 2019:
1) Senior Nationals
2) Canada Winter Games
3) BC Provincials
4) Western Canadian Team Championships
5) Washington Open
6) Bachelor Party
7) Wedding #Caroby2019
8) BC Elite
9) AMPFit Workshops & Classes
10) Hello Kitty Event (Bellevue)


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