Getting Personal … and FINALLY doing what you’ve told me to do

Most times when I publish a blog post or a video, it’s to offer helpful advice on how to use Microsoft Excel better.

Well… today is a bit different.

I want to pull back the curtain bit and share something more personal.

Here goes.

It’s 2017 and my 38 birthday is just around the corner. I am one of those people who is blessed with a youthful face – recently a taxi driver was convinced I was twenty years old. He was very surprised when I told him my age! So I got to thinking what would I do now in a 20 year old body, now that I’m almost 40 and have seen a lot more of the world.

Photo of me as a 37 year old (zero Photoshop):

Victor age 37

Victor (me) age 37

What would I do if I could turn back the clock?

How would I approach life differently if I could rewind the clock? I guess there are several things I would try to change, most of all I would like to focus on getting better skills and forming better habits.

Here are just a few examples of skills and habits I wished I had worked on during my 20s:

  • Use the Pomodoro Technique to keep me focused at work
  • How to make decisions using the WRAP framework (see book Decisive: How to Make Better Choices in Life and Work)
  • Master how to hold Crucial Conversations at home and at work (see book Crucial Conversation: Tools for Talking when Stakes are High)
  • Keep a Stop Doing list
  • Learn the agile project methodology of SCRUM for more effective team work
  • Learn to regularly invest in the stock market with a value investing mindset
  • Listen to audio books to do background learning
  • Exercise regularly using bodyweight training
  • Take a good walk after lunch
  • Pray more often
  • Get to sleep early and sleep deeply
  • Learn how to breathe for relaxation

… and the list goes on!

There’s a big reason why I would have focused on getting better skills and forming better habits. That reason is … there’s been a lot of change in my last 6 years and I faced challenges that I was not ready for. Many times I really wished I had a broader skill-set and better habits to get me through the toughest times.

 

What I’ve been up to for the last 6 Years

So what happened to me in the last 6 years? I’ll fill you in…

In 2011 I left a very promising career as an internal auditor and started Launch Excel as an experiment to find out whether anyone online would be interested to learn better ways to use Microsoft Excel for work, and especially whether anyone would want to learn from me. After all, I enjoyed using Excel and used it pretty much every day for almost a decade since I started working as an auditor at Deloitte in 2002.

When I started Launch Excel in 2011, I was pretty certain that I had a lot to teach. But I didn’t know how just many people would come to my blog and YouTube channel. And I didn’t know if I could turn Launch Excel into a full time thing or if it would just turn into a fun project I did in my spare time.

Here’s a screenshot of the site back in Sep 2011.

What I didn’t know 6 years ago…

Very soon after I started my Launch Excel “experiment”, I had no idea that within two months my wife and son would soon be in a potentially lethal head-on car crash at near 50mph, and I didn’t know that within eleven months my then-healthy father would suffer from a stroke and lose functional use of his right arm and leg.

The car crash was a shock, and we slowly recovered from the accident. Then my father’s stroke happened and I decided to push Launch Excel to the background instead of trying to turn it into a full time activity. For a while I continued posting new blog posts and videos in my spare time.

Then in 2013 I stopped updating the blog and YouTube channel altogether because I got a full time finance job and moved home 6,716 miles from Cambridge to Singapore with my family in tow, mainly so that I could be (geographically) closer to my parents and my wife’s family in China.

Basically we left the beautiful open spaces of Cambridge and joined the busy city life of Singapore:

Cambridge, England

 

Singapore Marina Bay Sands at night

Some of the Challenges I faced in Singapore

After moving to Singapore I started working for a good friend of mine. We helped local technology startups by supporting them in operations and finance. I also got some exposure to the Private Equity world when I spent some time as a Principal in an up-and-coming Asia buyout firm.

I think Singapore is a great place to live, but I faced quite a few challenges in Singapore that I was not prepared for.

On a work level, one tough challenge I faced was in the buyout firm, where partners and staff had frequent debates that got really heated and were never resolved 100%. They were all really smart people, and somehow this did not help because they would sometimes refuse to listen to each other respectfully. As the Principal, I would often be the one mediating heated debates between partners and staff, and sometimes between partners too. At least I got a lot of practice at empathetic listening!

Another challenge at work was trying to help founders in startups who have talented people in their teams but often do not know how to hold their team members accountable for putting the team’s results first, instead of their own interests first.

Reflecting on Skills and Habits

When I reflect on my recent challenges, I think one of the most under-rated skills in business today is the ability to hold Crucial Conversations – basically discussions where the stakes are high, emotions are strong and there are opposing opinions. I wish I had developed these skills earlier, so they would become habits firmly entrenched in my way of living.

On the other hand, I really appreciate the level of Excel mastery that I developed in my 20s. Since moving to Singapore, I have not gone a week without using Excel. It’s just that ubiquitous and useful. Whether it’s to help a startup with basic project planning, or modeling a buyout in the PE world, I have always been able to turn to Excel for something. Using Excel at work has become a habit for me.

At this point you might be wondering why exactly I’m writing this blog post.

Well, let me get to that.

Back to Launch Excel

A couple months ago I was curious to know what happened to my blog and YouTube channel. Since I’ve not posted anything new since 2013, I didn’t expect to see much activity.

Instead I was pleasantly surprised to see the high volumes of visitors and views that I had been getting. And after reading through comments on my blog and YouTube Channel, I started to realize something…

There is one REALLY BIG request you have made that I’ve been holding back on – for YEARS – despite all the signs you really want this.

I’m finally thinking about changing my mind and giving you what you been asking for since, like, the beginning of time.

But I’m nervous because it means sharing with you more of myself and my expertise than I have in the past.

And I’m also going to need your help.

Anyway, that REALLY BIG request is… (stay tuned until next time)

– Victor Chan

 

P.S. In the comments section below, I’d love to hear from you about what habits and skills you wished you had developed earlier in your life, and for bonus points explain why you wished you had developed those habits and skills.

Victor Chan
Victor runs Launch Excel to help you master Excel and VBA. He has used Excel a lot since 2002. He's a Chartered Accountant (Fellow of the ICAEW) with a Masters in Manufacturing Engineering from the University of Cambridge... and has a passion for teaching others. Enjoy his tutorials!
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Showing 25 comments
  • Frederick
    Reply

    I learned a lot from launch excel. If I could turn back time, I want also to learn deeply Excel. Thanks to your blog, it is not too late, I think. I would also like to learn how excel can be used as data analytics

    • Victor Chan
      Reply

      Hi Frederick. I’m excited to hear that you are wanting to learn Excel more deeply. Thanks for the feedback on wanting to learn how Excel can be used for data analytics.

  • Mary Ndaba
    Reply

    Wow! You actually look 18!! I almost did google you!! Your life story is interesting and in a great way, helpful. Well, I a 22 year old Kenyan lady. Looking back, there is no doubt in my mind that I should have developed the skill of reading wide. I really want to study and travel abroad someday( I have never been to any other country!), and I believe that knowledge of things beyond my Actuarial Degree would be helpful. Another skill I should have developed in my teenage should have been Computer skills. As an auditor, you know how being tech savvy is useful for an actuarial student. Well, I over-partied while in Campus. All said and done, I think I have gained some life skills that have helped me land jobs and meet people I never would have met without the skills. Thank you for sharing your story. All the best with Launch Excel!!

    • Victor Chan
      Reply

      Mary, thanks for posting your comment. I agree that being tech savvy is a very important skill in our world, since the tools we use and our skill levels are a big factor in determining the results that we can achieve.

      Over-partying while in Campus sounds like something we have in common – haha! Well hopefully one day you will be able to study and travel abroad. And reading widely is a very useful way of learning more about our world. I find that a good book is very valuable. And I only recently started listening to audiobooks (e.g. on Audible.com) in fact I recommend checking out a book called Crucial Conversations (audible.com) for a very useful set of skills to do with holding important (even life-changing) conversations.

      • Mary Ndaba
        Reply

        Thank you! I will definitely check it out. Thank you!

  • Reggies Bunu
    Reply

    This is an interesting story. I have understood and learnt a lot about this story. I also want to learn more about Launch excel and my ambition is to proceed with my education programs

    • Victor Chan
      Reply

      Thanks Reggies for letting us know that you want to learn more about Launch Excel. In the past 6 years I learned that I can’t predict what life will show me next, so I believe it’s important to keep learning and be prepared for the unexpected. Wishing you the best for progress in your education programs!

  • John
    Reply

    Hey Victor,

    Great to have you back on board!

    You will never make money or be happy working for someone else. Full Stop!
    Cheers,
    John

    • admin
      Reply

      Thanks for the support John! Look forward to more interactions with you soon.

  • Jack Gargett
    Reply

    Many thanks, as a 72 year old who looks his age I found your blog very helpful when I started using it, Also, having spent some time in Singapore working on your metronet, I must say how I enjoyed living and working in your country. Best wishes for the future. cheers Jack.

    • admin
      Reply

      Hey Jack, sounds like you are going strong at 72. I’m grateful to hear that you found Launch Excel very helpful when you started using it.

      Since you have previously worked in Singapore I guess you have experienced the cultural diversity and varied cuisine here. It’s nice to know you enjoyed living and working here.

      Look forward to chatting more

  • Gael Robinson
    Reply

    Welcome Back!! Now that I am in my 50’s the one habit I really wished I had developed much much earlier is; keep a journal or a diary and takes lots of photos. Make note of people’s names that you meet along the way – even if you think you will never see them again – it’s really annoying when you get older that you can’t remember the names of people who touched you in some way

    • admin
      Reply

      Hi Gael! Nice to be back

      I wholeheartedly agree with your comment about keeping a journal or diary and taking lots of photos. A couple years ago I started keeping a journal, and I found it’s really helped to remind me of good experiences, things I am grateful for, and also to see the progress that’s been made in different parts of my life.

      Thanks also for your tip of making note of people’s names. Bonus points for explaining why

  • Andrea Wilson
    Reply

    Nice reflections there – we really never know where life will take us. Yes give us more excel (if you can of course)

    • admin
      Reply

      Hey Andrea – thanks for your nice comment.

      I hope that 2017 will be the year when I start giving more Excel. I’ll keep everyone posted

  • Swapnil R
    Reply

    Listen to you heart. Follow your passion and the same I saw in your story above. Keep posting and keep sharing knowledge. Good Luck!

    • admin
      Reply

      Hello Swapnil! Thanks for your encouraging comment. I do plan on posting and sharing more knowledge as long as people like you benefit

  • Capery Mahmad
    Reply

    I am very touched by your story, I sympathise with you.
    I too was in England more than 2 decades ago, in Epsom Surrey.
    I find your Holiday tracker file very interesting, although I haven’t used it yet, definitely will soon.
    Thankyou very much.
    God bless.

    • admin
      Reply

      Capery Mahmad, I am grateful for your sympathy and thanks. Having those events happen over the past 6 years has been difficult.

      I do hope to continue sharing more in future posts (and videos)

  • Michael G Noble
    Reply

    Life happens, and your choices make us whom we are. I am also glad to have you back, and that you are better than you were. Please continue in doing what you believe, and know that your input makes a difference, just look at your followers 🙂

    • admin
      Reply

      Yes Michael it’s a profound statement to say our choices make us who we are. I feel grateful for your support.

  • kingford
    Reply

    This is an interesting story. I have understood and learnt a lot about this story. I also want to learn more about Launch excel and my ambition is to proceed with my education programs

    • Victor Chan
      Reply

      Thanks for your comment Kingford. I’ll keep you posted on Launch Excel!

  • Joseph.K
    Reply

    Am anxiously waiting

    • admin
      Reply

      Hi Joseph! Me too

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