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Based on last year’s Facebook post, you could say that I was strolling into 2017 with a little bit of confidence. 2016 was another strong year for me and achievement tends to strengthen self-assurance. I had been on a bull run of good years, dating back to 2010, where valuable experiences, relationships, and education helped me elevate myself to a very confident and comfortable point. Riding a full head of steam, I was positive that this momentum would carry forth into 2017.

The end of the year provides a great opportunity to reflect on the previous 365 days, rounding up all the good and bad to evaluate how you did in comparison to your goals. I was highly optimistic about 2017, but honestly, I consider it to be a down year, even going on to say that it was one of the more challenging periods I’ve had in recent memory.

2017 literally started on a dismal note, as I sprained my ankle at a New Years party. Then a few weeks later my grandfather past away. Call it ominous foreshadowing, but it somewhat set the tone for a year of challenges. There were two main themes for 2017: change and maturity. The Story of Rex Pham saw a new narrative, as I left everything in New York City to move back to Los Angeles. But the main driver for that major transition was my desire for maturity. I was a 31 going onto 32 years old and I needed to establish some stability. There were positive goals, but these two themes eventually provoked a number of challenges. However, rather than bouncing back and overcoming like in past chapters, I was in a back and forth bout with myself for roughly 67% of the year.   

There were times when that self-confidence was subdued. I found myself deeply second guessing my decision on moving back to LA and having serious considerations in returning to the comforts of the Big Apple. I found myself giving too much of myself up and sometimes feeling inadequate when I was dating Melissa, the longest I seriously dated someone in 4 years (and when that ended, I got way too caught up). I found myself feeling isolated, not being able to click with anyone (both old and new acquaintances) in LA. I found myself mostly enjoying my new job at UberEATS, while at the same time feeling really annoyed by the organization.

I’ve faced a number of obstacles in life always feeling like the underdog, but I’ve always been able to overcome them. However, 2017’s challenges annoyingly lingered and never seemed to let up. The series of previous good years conditioned me to think that I was in total control my destiny. We dictate the actions we take and responses we make, which in turn lead to specific results. However, when those actions don’t produce the desired results, frustration arises and at a certain point, I felt powerless. But was it because my expectations were too lofty? If LeBron James missed the NBA Finals this year after going 7 straight years; will it be a failed season?

One of the highlights of the year was my trip to Colombia in September and the vacation helped me get back to square one. I realized that I’ve been way too spoiled. Being able to achieve your goals and feel like you’re winning is euphoric, but you also need to willingly accept those losses because they will come. If maturity and change were key themes, I needed to be more patient and respond better when things don’t go my way. We actually don’t entirely control our destinies because we’re part of a greater universe with a bazillion moving parts. However, we do control ourselves. I came to grasp that I created my own stress, so I focused on reshaping my mental approach. Really adopting that LA lifestyle, I started meditating every morning, increased my frequency of physical exercise, monitored my diet by cooking more, and pushed myself to read.

There’s a great quote from the book “You Are a Badass” by Jen Sincero that practically summarized everything: “when taking great leaps forward, life often turns to shit before it turns to Shinola (an old shoe polish brand)“. You can’t always expect major changes to produce immediate returns, rather it’s a slow process filled with obstacles that help you grow during the journey. When tested, the real test is how you respond to difficult situations. I was facing more “mature” problems and these can’t be solved overnight.

Reflecting on 2017, I didn’t fully accomplish what I wanted, but I can confidently say that I’ve significantly progressed, in what I consider “important”, in how I handle problems, and in general, how I see the world as a seasoned 32-year-old. It was a down year, but I learned a lot. But the year wasn’t that bad:

  • Went on some great excursions: Joshua Tree, Portland, Chicago, New York (twice), Colombia, Mexico City (which is where I’m writing this blog piece)
  • Helped the UberEATS team grow the business in SoCal by a very impressive amount. If you haven’t tried it, I have a promo code for you.
  • Finally got a tattoo
  • Really enjoyed being in a relationship 
  • Did a lot of creating, from writing, to photography, to Spotify playlists, to podcast, to DJ mixes
  • A lot of good music. I went to so many shows that I can’t recall all of them, but Jhene Aiko, Majid Jordan, and Miguel were highlights
  • Cutting the fat out of my social circle to those that provide the most meaningful and valuable relationships.

I don’t believe in New Year’s resolutions because you should always be improving yourself, but I believe in having goals. When you have clear-cut truths in mind, it helps in laying out the process to get there. In 2018, I’m going to:

  • Make a career move to elevate my level and compensation
  • Align with those who share the same values and passions that I currently have
  • Transform creativity into revenue
  • Cultivate and build a relationship with a significant other who shares the same wavelength.

So farewell to 2017, it was just an annoying year across spectrums with all the shenanigans in politics and society. Take your “losses” in stride because it’s a true loss if you didn’t learn anything from them. Happy New Year.

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Rex Pham

Originally from the Bay Area, who then moved to Los Angeles, then out to New York City. NYU Stern MBA c/o 2014. Inspired by the grind of NYC to create something that has value. Lover of all things digital, culture, and brand strategy.