Eden Chen

Reflections on 2019

Eden Chen January 02, 2020

I feel responsible this year for reflecting not just on 2019 but the entire decade (so does everyone that is reflecting?). The last decade makes up all of my working life. I vividly remember graduating in 2009 to a pretty depressing scene. I’d flown more than 20,000 miles looking for a job after Lehman Brothers went bankrupt. It felt like the world was on the brink of ending and the world saw no end in sight with the European debt crisis and leverage that was so over levered that we didn’t even know how to do the math. It would’ve been hard to imagine then that in the next decade the stock market would go from trough to highs on highs on highs and housing prices would reach unthinkable prices. People don’t see an end in sight to the soaring markets with the government and fed pumping an unlimited amount of capital into the economy. This reminds me of a quote from Blow, as a warning to myself and to everyone else, “sometimes you’re flush and sometimes you’re bust, and when you’re up, it’s never as good as it seems, and when you’re down, you never think you’ll be up again, but life goes on.” 

Economics don’t always correlate with people’s sentiment though as many still feel like the world is ending with global warming and wealth disparity having gone from bad to worse and Donald Trump unthinkably on his way to win another election. Of course, the urban individual will be in denial about this all the way until the ballots are counted. 

This is all just context for the matter at hand though – what is the meaning of another decade? What did I learn in 2019? And what dreams do I have for 2020? 

What I learned: 

  • Our first child, Talitha, was born in 2018 but I really feel like this was our first year with her. Having a child does unexpected things to you. I actually feel more that she expanded my capacities as opposed to just taking away time. I began to dream bigger dreams after she was born. I felt more urgency about doing the things that I felt called to. I see so much more potential in her than in myself. I thought much more about the miracle of learning and knowing. To be able to learn something is such a gift. I realized I take for granted all the things that I know. Like how I know how to walk, how to say a name, speak a language, and all the simpler things in between. 
  • I saw God’s sustenance through watching Talitha go through 3 out of 4 of her surgeries this year. Spending time in the hospital was clarifying. God gave Carolyn and I so much joy throughout that whole process, that in some weird sick way we missed our time in the hospital after the daily grind recontinued. This amazing peace could only have been from God. 
  • People always over value flashy looking stuff (immersion) and undervalue operational value (speed). I’ve been pretty outspoken about why I think VR will never work as a mass consumer product but I think the fundamental problem is that people think immersion is more valuable than it is. So people always blame the content, or the tech not being ready, but in my opinion, it’s just that people don’t care that much about immersion. It’s cool, it has an amazing wow factor, and there are certain use cases where immersion makes a lot of sense (training, healthcare, empathetic experiences, education, etc.), but all the great movies and games are great not because they look cool but because they tell great stories, or have interesting game mechanics. Speed on the other hand, is something that you don’t know how much you value until you don’t have it. So many successful businesses are successful primarily because of their speed: Amazon (two day shipping), Zoom (video conferencing that actually works), Super Human (email that is fast), etc. Take operational excellence over flash any day of the week. 
  • Hard things continue to be hard things for me. I’ve realized how much I hate conflict, and how some of my poor decisions in life can be directly attributable to kicking the conflict can down the road. Conflict is not always a bad thing. It’s natural to have disagreements with people and it’s healthy to try and hash those things out. This in general has to do with my desire to seek comfort / easy things. Good things but hard things include: exercising, reading, self control, discipline, cleaning, serving, thinking of other people, praying many many more. 
  • I’m learning how to better spend my time. When I was a first time entrepreneur I would take every meeting just to get out there. It’s not always the case, but I try to think through two things when doing something. One – how does this fit into some bigger picture goals (i.e. build a deeper friendship with this person, learn more about this industry, sell product to a given client, serve my wife and child, etc.)? Two – what is a systematic and efficient way to achieve this (systematic because if there isn’t a schedule and a timetable typically it doesn’t happen, and efficient because time is a limited commodity, especially when you have a child)? This way I’m not just meeting with someone for the sake of meeting with someone. Or reading a book because I think reading is generally “good.” 

I love New Years. I love new beginnings and the New Year forces me to take time to be critical on ways I can live better, and actually set vision for doing the things that matter to me as opposed to going through life on auto pilot. Unfortunately, it takes serious time to do this and it hurts my brain.

For 2020, I’m excited about new things. Seeing Talitha do new things, starting new things, learning new things.

Weekly musings delivered to your inbox