Year in Review 2021

Year in Review 2021

Heyo from Toronto! ❄️

Every year on my birthday, I reflect on my highs, lows, and everything in between. I've done this every year for the past six years (past editions here: 2020, 2019, 2018, 2017, 2016, and 2015).

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This tradition is an amazing way to measure backward and appreciate how far I've come. Here's how my 2021 went:

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πŸ’œ Phamily time!

I was forced to leave Canada in November 2020 because of delays in my VISA application. This became a blessing in disguise because I had a chance to reunite with my family back in Los Angeles.

Since moving out at 19, I forget how much time I've spent away from my family aside from a few visits a year. Having these five months together brought us closer than ever before.

We went to the park for daily walks and sports. The siblings and I played a plethora of board games. I witnessed my nephew learn to crawl for the first time. We celebrated my brother's birthday and spent the holiday season together with my extended family.

My family and I are both very happy at how this all turned out.

While I was grateful to be back, I remembered why I moved out in the first place: To be independent and have a life of my own.

Living with family for so long drove me INSANE!!! πŸ˜†

Being back was great while it lasted but I knew it was time to resume living my life. Once my work permit finally got approved, I headed back to Canada. πŸ‡¨πŸ‡¦

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🍁 Readjusting back to Toronto

Flying back in the middle of the pandemic was a nightmare.

Out of pocket hotel costs, mandatory 14-day quarantine, lost COVID tests, late test results, and bouncing from place to place was beyond stressful.

Luckily I made it out the other side.

I found a new place in my ideal neighborhood close by to my lovely friends. I got to catch up with many of my old pals again. Once COVID restrictions started to slowly loosen up, I jumped at any social opportunity that I could.

  • Yes to park yoga
  • Yes to biking around the city
  • Yes to outdoor salsa classes
  • Yes to go on a walk with literally anyone
  • Yes to trying Muay Thai for the very first time
  • Yes to volunteering at my local farmer's market
  • Yes to a random softball league my landlord invited me to.

From having no in-person connection to suddenly having plans in my calendar was a game-changer. All these experiences rejuvenated my spirits and turned a stressful and grumpy Tam into a happy and social butterfly again. πŸ¦‹

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πŸ’» I got a promotion! Then changed roles again...

In April of 2019, I moved to Toronto to start a new community called Catalyst with the mission to bring together amazing local entrepreneurs. The plan was to first prove the local model before starting new chapters in Vancouver, Denver and Austin.

But COVID hit a year later. We had to shut down Catalyst and shift to a completely new business model, merging our community with MMT, our existing global community. This change meant creating a new offering, business strategy, team roles and more.

But with every problem offered an opportunity. I got promoted to be the company's Integrator (like a Director of Operations), a role that I've always wanted to try, to steer the ship in a new direction.

I set up our leadership team to adopt Entrepreneurial Operating System (EOS), set up our internal systems and processes, hire + onboard + manage a new team while still keeping all the other parts of my job intact like designing and facilitating our BrainTrusts (intimate mastermind groups).

I've read so many different books on leadership, management, and building a healthy team culture. I even had a chance to facilitate workshops for a few friends to set up EOS for their company.

While I'm proud to have helped build a great team and establish a rhythm of consistently planning and hitting our quarterly goals, I knew this role wasn't the "bullseye" of what makes me feel alive.

Luckily, my company needed my diverse skillset elsewhere and today, I act as the membership curator for MMT. My job is to talk to entrepreneurs every day and see if they are a fit to be part of our highly curated community. I've been doing work similar to this since I was first dropped out of college so this is very much in my wheelhouse.

Another part of my role is to plan and host our 3-day live experience come summer 2022. This will be the first time since the pandemic where our members can reconnect together in person. We were forced to push this gathering back two years in a row and I'm optimistic that this time, we are going to make it happen. πŸ™Œ

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😯 Diversifying my "purpose" portfolio

I grew up internalizing the quote,

"You are the average of the five people you surround yourself with."

So I spent most of my 20s optimizing my circle with ambitious and successful people in hopes that I will be more like them.

Fast forward to today, my network is surrounded by entrepreneurs running million-dollar businesses, friends in startups or big tech companies, and people who are building the future with Crypto, DeFi, and Web3.

This served me very well in my career and I've thoroughly enjoyed all the work that I've done to get to where I am today. But as I think my career as a whole, I feel less attached to making work my number one source of meaning.

I feel much more drawn to having a job where I can still make a good impact but know that my work is only one part of my grand "purpose" portfolio. Work does not have to be the center of my life.

I find a ton of fulfillment in learning things outside of business like when I embarked on my chess sabbatical or learned to dance bachata/salsa or tried stand-up comedy and improv.

I find a ton of meaning through my relationships. Friends, family, gym buddies, dance partners, neighbors. It is awesome to spend two hours deep in conversation and not discuss anything related to work, side hustles, crypto, etc.

I slowly realized I was becoming the people who I used to kind of look down on: "less ambitious" and "less successful" people who were content with a simpler life.

I had a bit of an identity crisis and this little voice in my head wouldn't freaking shut up.

  • Am I "less than" for simply wanting a good, stable job while I enjoy all the other amazing parts of my life?
  • Am I "selfish" for not optimizing for a job around global impact and using my skills/talents for a non-profit?
  • Am I "irresponsible" for not aggressively building wealth for my future and wanting to play more?

It felt like I was seeking permission - is it ok to live like this??

After many conversations with my friends, mentors and coaches... the advice I received from everyone is a unanimous YES! lol

It's my life. I can spend it however I want. They advised me to not feel guilty because it serves no one. My friends helped me reflect that I shouldn't compare myself to others, especially to my younger self who had different goals/values than my current self right now.

They also acknowledge that my desires can change over time. Some day in the future, I may decide to go back to school or start a family or travel for a year or become a TikTok star (god, I hope not) β€” who knows?

It's about time I updated my definition of what a meaningful and rich life should be. Writing and sharing this reflection is a nice start. πŸ™‚

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πŸ’ͺ Tam "bangkok ready" Pham

One of my deepest fears was to fight somebody.

For a relatively lean dude whose spirit just screams "non-violence," I'd feel like a deer in headlights if anyone confronted me on the street.

The continuous theme in my life is to lean into my fears and this led me to sign up for my first Muay Thai class. Surprisingly, it wasn't that bad!

I started going to the gym once a week and really started to enjoy myself. I learned to jump rope for a little bit longer each day. My punching and kicking form became more fluid. Before I knew it, I had a monthly membership pass and would show up to class four times a week.

Muay Thai feels like a beautiful chess game, but with your body. I'm in my ultimate flow state whenever I practice. It also helps that the community and coaches at my gym are incredibly helpful and positive.

I plan to continue my journey into martial arts for the indefinite future. It's an infinite game that I can see myself playing for a while. Beyond Muay Thai, there is Brazilian jiu-jitsu, wrestling, judo, traditional boxing and many more faucets of mixed martial arts.

I don't ever plan to fight anyone or even have a desire to compete one day. I simply love to learn and pursue mastery in everything that I do. It truly is never too late to try something new. πŸ₯Š

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πŸ’€ Quick thoughts on happiness and death

My definition of happiness has changed over the years. But lately, I have been resonating with this quote.

"This is where I'm meant to be right now, doing exactly what I'm doing."

This doesn't mean that I can't have big desires. One example: I want to be much better than I am now at Muay Thai. I see people at the gym kick harder, punch faster, and mix up their attacks elegantly.

But comparing myself to them is not helpful. They are playing their game and I am playing my game. I need to focus is what I can control which is simply improving 1% every day.

Once I've internalized that, I can let go of all other expectations, and choose to be happy with my journey.

Plus the fun and joy are in the climb!!! It's hard for an A-type personality like me to realize but I have to remind myself all the time that the process is the most fulfilling part of any journey.

Happiness is not about an outcome or a destination. It's knowing that I'm exactly where I need to be right now.

I've also been resonating a lot with Momento Mori, a Latin phrase that translates to "remember that you will die."

When I go to bed, I remind myself that I may not wake up tomorrow. I know I've had a good day when I get into bed, stare at the ceiling and think to myself...

"Today, I have truly lived. If I wake up tomorrow, that extra day is a bonus.

This may sound a bit morbid but I find doing this makes me feel more alive and cherish the moments that are in front of me.

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🌊 Word of the year for 2022: flow

I usually don't resonate with the idea of choosing a word that represents your year. But the word "flow" has been coming up several times for me whenever I think about what I need to feel most alive for 2022 and beyond.

Flow to me is when you are so present in the moment that time flies by.

I've been in flow state while taking Muay Thai classes, deeply connecting with friends, going on trail runs, solving a puzzle before bed, exploring a new city, meditating, journaling, and so on.

The tipping point was when I recently brought an old chess book to a cafe and spent three hours engrossed in the material. I haven't studied chess like this in forever and I got so hyped reading again!! Why don't I do this more often!?

I think about the days where I'm not in flow. The days where I binge watch Netflix/YouTube or constantly check social media and Reddit. Or the moments where I'm at a social event that I really don't want to be at and silently stare at the clock wondering when I can leave.

Those days suck! I go to bed and ask myself: Why did I just do this??

Flow is being present to whatever is in front of me and giving it my full attention and effort. I hope to have more of it in this new year coming up soon.

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✏️ Getting back to the flow of writing

I restarted my blog again after a long hiatus and I'm proud to have published nine (soon to be ten next week) issues of Tam's Jam along with eight unique articles.

  1. How to Have Deep and Meaningful Relationships When You Can't See Anyone In-Person
  2. How To Support A Friend Who Is Suffering From The Pandemic
  3. How to Play Taboo Online With Custom Cards (Free Template)
  4. You Don't Have To Find Your Life Purpose Through Work
  5. Make Major Life Decisions With Confidence By Answering Three Simple Questions
  6. How I Solved My Low Self Esteem And Low Confidence Problems Through Self Love
  7. How to Build Your Perfect Body Without Needing To Look Like a Model
  8. High Leverage Kindness: low effort and big impact things you can do to make someone's day

Thank you to those who have given positive (or negative) feedback on anything I've published. It's reassuring to know that my work is making a difference in someone's life.

I hope to write more pieces next year. If there's anything that you're curious about, always feel free to reply back here. πŸ‘

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πŸ‘€ What's up next in 2022?

At a high level:

  • Quality time with friends and family
  • Do a great job with work
  • Practice Muay Thai and explore other martial arts
  • Attend three weddings next year
  • Go on my first silent meditation retreat
  • Backpack around Europe with my best friend

In the spirit of doing less, this is more than enough to make me feel content. 😌

Thank you for taking a moment in your day to read a year in my life. I hope you are staying healthy, both physically and mentally, and enjoying the holiday season.


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