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.
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):
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:
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.