Lesson 1: Just because you have been doing something the same way for 15 years, does not mean that it will work for the next 15 years.

I like to remind myself that everything happens for a reason, and that reason is for me to learn and improve. So when, earlier this year, I spent a week with a strained Achilles, strained neck, and lost voice - I knew there was a lesson here.

Through the pain and sympathetic looks of passersby, I reminded myself that I would laugh about this in a couple weeks. It took about a month, but I finally did laugh at how my body completely broke down. With no notice, each body part screamed for attention, back-to-back within a day of each other. 

After doing the requisite hot packs and braces, I started thinking about why this all happened. I realized that I may have the spirit of a 25 year old, but my body is 45. Eating chocolate before bed and Hot Tamales for breakfast are habits that need early retirement! My new low-carb, low-sugar diet has me feeling more energetic than ever before. I have even started cooking, so if you want some recipes, ping me, I have customized some pretty good ones!

Just because you have been doing something the same way for 15 years, does not mean that it will work for the next 15 years. And when that slap-in-the-face happens, realize that it only feels like a slap because you need more than a soft nudge to break from your old habits. So take that abrupt shove, and go with it. You cannot expect to build a better path for yourself, by repeating the same routine.

Lesson 2: Listen to your customers - listen to understand, not just to respond.

At Skills Bridge, we have been creating career and workplace content for about 2 years - all of which have been a response to questions from our 2.3m followers on all our social platforms. They asked, we responded - more details in last year's wrap- up letter.

That seems simple enough: business 101 says, “listen to your users”. But were we really listening? We were listening to respond, but we were not listening to understand. Why were people asking?

At the beginning of this year, I started to dig more into this. I found that 200,000 (over 50%) of fresh graduates in Vietnam are underemployed, according to data from the General Statistics Office of Vietnam. One of the reasons for this is the gap between the topics taught at university and the actual requirements of the workplace.

So we decided to take a step beyond providing tips and summaries. We started offering structured courses. And from September through December, we have trained over 2,600 paid seats; among those, 34% have purchased more than one course. We lovingly call this our Team Lac Quan (Team Optimism) community. :) We are also very honored to have been trusted by employers such as Home Depot, Honda, Bosch, Lazada, Sanofi, Fast Retailing (Uniqlo) to train their internal teams.  

And of course, we continued to create new free content, including a weekly podcast and an interview series featuring some of Vietnam’s top young leaders. Thank you to the members of Team Lac Quan, and to all our fans and followers. We will continue to listen, and be your trusted partner throughout your career journey!

Users can identify a pain point, but it’s up to you to figure out the best solution. Build in small increments, listening and improving as you go along. Yes, advice we have all heard before. But sometimes it’s so obvious that we forget, or skip steps, especially in the early days of a startup, when it seems like there are so many possible directions we can head in. Listen to your customers!

Lesson 3: "Well, whadya know…” (Dexter Jettster, Star Wars)

This holiday season is the first time that I am apart from the kids for an extended period (4 weeks). When we made the plans, I was secretly happy - excited for the time to myself!

The day they left for the airport - that night, the first thing I did when I got home was peep into their bedrooms, expecting to see their peaceful, resting bodies. Instead, I saw rumpled blankets and empty beds. And I felt a very distinct twinge of sadness run through my body. And I realized: well, whadya know, I actually love those little rascals! :D

I had my first child when I was 39. That’s almost 40 years of living life for #1. I thought I wanted kids, but I had no idea what I was in for. And it has taken almost 7 years, but I think I finally get it.

What really drove this lesson home was when I got that glimpse of what empty nest syndrome would feel like - and it’s no fun. I know that the next 15 years will fly by, and in the meantime, I am going to cherish every public tantrum, every vegetable refused, every wet bed. And of course, every hug from their pudgy arms and every kiss from their wet lips!

Some changes in life take time. If you are considering trying something new, like changing careers - go for it! Just remember that things could be uncomfortable or even downright painful at first, but that does not mean it is bad for you. Put your head down, do the work, and one day, you cannot even remember what life was like without it!

My key take-away from 2022

What motivates me every day? The daily reminder that there is so much to be thankful for: I am healthy, I am happy, I am loved. And the key is to listen to yourself and to listen to those around you. Listen with intent, listen to understand; and the path will become clear. Full steam ahead into 2023!