Eden Chen

Reflections on 2022

Eden Chen December 28, 2022

Inflation dominated the minds of everyone this year. Even as all the world’s governments printed unlimited sums of money, year after year, prices hardly went up as much as expected. People started explaining this as a new economic reality – they said printing money potentially no longer had the same impact on prices because of reasons like unlimited price discovery and comparison. But of course, this was a fool’s errand, as all sins must be paid for.

The decade-plus of easy money is over and this decade has had an indelible impact on an entire generation, including me. I’ve heard some say that the blitzscaling bubble popped but I think its implications are much broader than this.

There was a belief now that everything should be free. There is still an eviction moratorium in Los Angeles, the LA County Supervisor a couple weeks ago said, “It is unacceptable to let anyone fall into homelessness during a pandemic because they can’t afford to pay rent.” Staying in a place rent-free though just reinforces that housing should be free (especially when that policy has now been in place indiscriminately for 3 years), paid for unwillingly by those that own property. Biden’s student loan forgiveness program forgives student debt up to $20k for those who make less than $75k. This sounds great as debt can be a nasty spiral that many not get out of. When it all comes down to it though, these students received a service that ultimately someone else has to pay for. As worried as the government says they are about inflation, their actions continue to show that we are addicted to free things, and cannot rationalize the simple concept that there is always a cost to paying for something, even if we don’t see what those costs are upfront.

Secondly, there was a much higher prioritization for growth than cash flow across all companies, and that meant that growth was pursued even when there was no way one could justify it. The rationalization was that even if you spend more than you make, becoming the market leader has benefits that go beyond simple revenue and costs. In a world of interest free money that may make sense, but what kinds of irrational behaviors has it taught us entrepreneurs? It’s unbelievable to me now for example that the top performing big tech stock (market cap >$50 bn) of 2022 was IBM, but it shouldn’t be shocking. IBM made $752 million of free cash flow in 2022 and pays out a 4.6% dividend while growth stocks have continued to lose vast amounts of money with no plan that gets them to cash flow break even. I think the skill that I, and many of my peers, underprioritized most the last couple of years, was operational discipline. I’m remembering again, how important making hard decisions and operating with discipline and accountability are, and I have a lot to grow in this area.

The age of easy money has made Christianity look even more old-school, distant, and unrelatable. Why is it that we must pay for our sins? As long as my good actions outweigh my bad, isn’t that enough? What did Jesus ultimately die for? Sin is ultimately the breaking of God’s law, and the Bible says that the “wages of sin are death”. Legal debt, like financial debt, must always be paid for somehow. In order for Christianity to make any sense at all, we must understand the same simple concept above, every cost must be paid for by someone.

There was so much to lament over this year, including societal ills like the Ukraine and Russian war, pervasive homelessness and addiction in the city we live in, and my own shortcomings as I look over my 2022 goals and all the ways I’ve fallen short of who I want to become. Every year, at the end of the year, I do annual reflections, and they ultimately always come back to the gospel, because when I reflect over the course of the year, I’m overwhelmed by the sin of the world and my own sin.

Who is a God like you, pardoning iniquity and passing over transgression for the remnant of his inheritance? He does not retain his anger forever, because he delights in steadfast love. He will again have compassion on us; he will tread our iniquities underfoot. You will cast all our sins into the depths of the sea. -Micah 7:18-19

Thank you Jesus for the gospel! Jesus became the solution to our problem with sin, as all of our sins became paid for through his sacrifice if we only recognize our need. May I delight in the joy of being completely forgiven, over and over, this year.

I usually come up with a word that I feel like is defining my next year. It’s my sorry attempt to take a prophetic proverbial shot. In 2023, my word is “passion”. Other words that I was really feeling ahead of the year were war, action, and offense. I really appreciate one of my mentors, Amy Chang for calling me out on the need to be more proactive and ambitious. I did feel way too passive in 2022 and I’m looking forward to driving hard this year towards more self-control, making hard decisions, and being focused and urgent in what I’m doing.

Books Read in 2022 – Amp it Up was probably my favorite book for the year. I read it towards the end of the year and it really got be excited about next year and convicted about ways I can be a better leader. This was in stark contrast to Play Nice But Win, which I did not find helpful personally. It was an impressive reminder of what a slog Dell must’ve had to come out on top in the hardware world, and how prescient his pivot to enterprise software was.

TV Shows Watched in 2022 – Station Eleven and the last season of Better Call Saul were my two favorite shows for the year.

  • Better Call Saul Season 6
  • Lord of the Rings, Rings of Power
  • Station Eleven
  • House of The Dragon
  • Barry Season 3
  • Severance

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