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2019 Yearly Review: Birth of Tradition

“Time is the friend of the person who trains his mind to follow positive thought-habits and the enemy of the person who drifts into negative thought-habits.”

Napoleon Hill (Outwitting the Devil)

When last year was coming to a close, I had a terrible realization that I couldn’t remember anything that happened that year and I felt like life was slipping through my fingers. Every week moving faster than the last, and while I was in the grips of it all my days seemed to have amounted to nothing. I knew that this wasn’t possible because I was working really hard, dedicating myself to (what I believed to be) noble causes, and some things in my life were moving along in a generally positive direction, but it just didn’t feel like it.

I was tired of feeling stagnant, so I told myself in 2019 I had to track my life somehow. (I learned a lot about tracking this year and I outline it in my post on Tracking vs. Loss Aversion.) I wasn’t open to journaling or writing at the time, but I’ve discovered that writing is of my favorite ways to record myself and look back on later. In the early parts of the year, I tried to take pictures of something I was doing once a day or record a quick vlog, but those didn’t stick and I felt like it didn’t accurately captured what I was actually like.

I was really disheartened to think that one day I’ll be gone, and all that will be left of me are the things that I leave here. All that will be left of me would be those pictures to capture my day or that quick vlog.

That didn’t sit well with me at all.

I understand that entire civilizations have come and gone and most individuals are not remembered in time, but I want my existence to at least have a chance to impact others, even after I’m dead and gone. I thought about how much beauty and tragedy I can experience in a day, how I’ve learned so much throughout my time here, and I should try my damndest to share it. Not only life lessons and academic lessons, but lessons about the human spirit that can only be communicated through experiencing another individual. Every person I’ve come across has an undeniable uniqueness, and I’ve always believed that’s what makes people special. It was so terrible that my own unique individualism was being squashed and forgotten because I was too lazy, afraid, or [insert any relatively insignificant emotion here] to dedicate the energy and time required to preserve it. If I couldn’t even remember what I was doing in the past year, how could I expect to preserve my individuality over time?

With frustration, fear, and angry heavy in my heart I went on to find some way to accurately capture who I am. I discovered that I could carve out a little piece of the internet and create a space that captures all the different sides of me, and if I dedicated the proper time and energy, then I could capture who I am in my entirety. So I ditched the “picture a day” crap and took my documenting more seriously. I created a plan to build an online city that expresses the different sides of Christopher Sagala Mukiibi. Each project I build isn’t a perfect representation of me, but it is a small part of me. The goal is my future and (hopefully) expansive body work will capture who I am in my entirety and no part of me will be left unsaid, so to speak.

To capture my nonverbal emotional states, I dedicated myself to building a musical district in my online city. This is starting off as my beat store and Sagala Productions, but I hope to nourish and build this to something more beautiful that I could imagine. I’m in the early stages of figuring out how to make beat making videos. I feel like my music district will be a little more substantial once that is written out.

To teach the beautiful ideas that help me make sense of the world, I dedicated myself to building an educational district in my online city. This is starting off as my blog, but it is also developing offline in my tutoring sessions and classes that I teach at the Temecula Tutor center. This blog is an opportunity for me to expand and refine ideas that will be further synthesized into my online courses and (hopefully) a book. This educational district will give students scaffolding to receive a quality education that actually helps them operate in the world from a system that isn’t designed to do that.

To capture the parts of me that are less understood by myself, I dedicated myself to building a talk show. I don’t really want to go into why a talk show is perfect for capturing the unknown within in this post but I plan to cover it sometime in the future. The show is in it’s early developments, but we have a few episodes shot and I can really see this building into something beautiful. Even if it doesn’t go anywhere, I’m anticipating this to be one of the most accurate depictions of myself. I’m hoping in 2020, I’ll be able to drop some high quality entertainment and capture some priceless memories.

To ensure consistent improvement, I’ve dedicated myself to doing a Yearly Review every year. I tried a few different ways to track consistent improvement. I was looking for a method that was low pressure enough to keep me going but was still effective. It took a few months but I think I’ve found a way that sticks. (We’ll see though.)

So it’s pretty simple, every month I pick two of my weaknesses that I will try to get at least 1% better by the end of the month. I keep the bar low so I will actually do it, but I always pick the things that I really really really really really really do not want to focus on.

I write the themes on the whiteboard in my room, because I look at it all the time so I’m constantly reminded of my weaknesses and that it’s my job this month to get better at them. I’ve found that as long as I’m trying to get better and I know what I’m trying to improve, I actually get better! What a concept.

So this year, I started my themes may and june but I didn’t record anything from those months and I can’t remember what I was working on and how I felt about it but I did notice an improvement. So in July I started writing it down in my note app so I can at least keep track of something.

I would also keep a to-do list written above my themes and if I felt proud of myself that day then I would take a picture of the list and save it into my themes. As the year went on, I started taking more and more pictures of the lists. It’s crazy to think that there were a few months this year when I only felt proud of myself less than 5 days out of the month but it’s also nice to know that there were some months when I felt proud of myself almost every day.

As the months went on, I rediscovered the value of writing more and taking less pictures, but I never sat down to thoroughly write my thoughts out so I’m going to give myself the opportunity to do that now with this review. The memories won’t be perfect, but they’ll do. I’ll put what I initial wrote down in my notes app in italics and my elaborated thoughts will come afterwards.

July: Continuous Humility & Patience

“at the beginning of the month I found it scary to take on these themes. I knew they were weaknesses.

“I feel way more humble and patient. So much so that I want to try this every month to see if I can overcome more miraculous things. I’ve accomplished so much this month. This is a fun little thing to do. And there’s no stakes”

CM: Like I said, I didn’t take much time to elaborate so this is all I wrote. I knew that I had an arrogance issue and I was quite impatient. It was annoying confronting this, but this month was important. By the end of the month, I was ecstatic to look at the progress I was making. I was learning things quicker and producing things faster. I knew that it was in direct correlation to my humility and patience. Arrogance and impatience are the death of progress and this little experiment helped me see that. It really didn’t cost me anything, I felt like I was getting better, and I actually was getting better. Why not try it again?

August: Discipline & Clarity

“I feel like my life lacks discipline and I have a hard time believing that I am sane so clarity seems to be the antidote for that.”

“one week in and it’s a lot less tough to focus on the theme. I’m working out more. I’m getting so much done. I’m more honest too. I’m a little more tired, but I feel like a better man for it.”

“end of the month: I’m so happy I did this. I am more disciplined and I rarely think im crazy anymore. I’ve been working out more consistently and I’ve noticed changes in my body. I’m great at getting myself to start things now. I’ve been more honest and clear with my writing and speech. I accomplished so much this month and I can’t wait to see what’s going to happen over the next few months. I honestly think this is a great way for me to get over any flaws I have or enhance any ability I want. I’m going to give it another try for September.”

CM: Turns out my experiment was a success and the benefits far exceeded the costs and/or expectations. I started working on my creativity section of my body of work, recording what my creative process is like. I also completed 13 beats that month! I can barely believe that now. I started posting on my website and I was simultaneously confronting multiple weaknesses and actually making something beautiful out of it. This month the first episode of So to Speak was filmed. I don’t think that episode will ever be released, but we’ll see. The future is full of unexpected events.

September: Completion & Order

“I have a hard time finishing things and I’m constantly feeling out of control. I want to be able to see my impact in the universe. I will reach out and move things. No longer will I sit back. I will finish my plans, hopefully. I’ve developed two months as a success spiral. I want to see how long this will last and if it can overcome these things.”

“first week in: I’m seeing all the things I never finish. I’m hyper aware of all the new projects that I’m dying to start. I’m going to try to just write those ideas down – and attend to them when I finished what I’m set out to do.”

“Last week: I did slightly better with completion and order than I was expecting, but I don’t feel like I had the same level of success as I did with my other months. So I’m going to keep completion as the theme for next month but I’m changing order. I started Thus Spake Zarathustra and Nietzsche says we need to have much chaos within us to give birth to a dancing star.

CM: I remember this month. It was painful to notice how often I want to start new ideas and leave all my old ones unfinished. I told myself, I had to finish whatever projects I was working on this month before I could start a new one. I dropped this idea as soon as the month was over because I figured that as long as I’m starting to create the truly great projects will be the ones that get completed and not the ones that are forced. I’m not saying this is the case for everyone, it’s just a belief I’m trying out right now. This month I injected a lot of order into my life and rejecting the chaotic side of me made it difficult to create. There is definitely a balance to be found between chaos and order. This month consisted of a lot of cleaning, physical and digital. Not the most exciting stuff, but I’m very happy to know that I’ve dedicated at least 1/12 of this year to entropy management.

October: Completion & Consistency

“2nd week in: I feel a lot better about my ability to complete and be consistent. I’m feeling like I have more control over what’s happening. Finishing things and not finishing things has become more of a choice rather than a reflection of my circumstances “

“October 17th: I feel like I understand my body more with my consistent workouts. Aries is happier too. He loves the morning walks and I think he’s losing weight. I’ve been trying really hard to complete my tasks each day. I can’t manage that, but I am finishing a lot more than I usually do. What gets measured gets improved is such an accurate statement.”

“21st: It feels real fucking good to check off everything today. I finally feel like completion and consistency are completely mine. What gets measured gets managed. What gets managed gets improved. Aries is definitely losing weight. And it feels good being in control of whatever I choose. It’s a little humbling to see how much that really is, but knowing my limits is good.”

“Last day: I feel like I’ve gotten a good hold on completion and consistency, but I feel like I’ve lost hold of some of the other themes I’ve been practicing. Specifically patience. It’s almost like I’m only able to have a grip on a few of these abilities at a time. Anyways this month has been wildly productive. I feel healthier, and so is Aries and I’m pretty confident in myself. It’s all those success spirals 😁”

CM: This month was critical for my development, or at least seems so when I look back on these thoughts. I feel like my relationship with completion has changed since this month. I learned that completing things is a choice, and if I pay enough attention, there’s a specific moment when I decide to finish a project or not. All I have to do is be honest with myself and decide to finish. Or not. The confronting part is knowing that this capacity for completion is a decision that I make if I’m paying attention. I remember being really consistent this month. I was constantly working out and finishing tasks on my white board. I feel like I truly learned how much I could accomplish in a day. I learned where my cognitive load caps out and how much cognitive load each task takes. It was humbling to learn that I can’t get as much done in a day as I’d like, but at least I get stuff done at all! 70% there is better than 0%. After reading these thoughts, it looks like completion and consistency are the recipe for confidence and feeling awesome! I learned that during October, but somewhere between then and now I’ve forgotten it. It’s cool reflecting and rediscovering lessons that were so crucial to my peace of mind.

November: Patience & Focus

“1st Day: I’m upset that I’ve lost proficiency, so to speak, in patience. And the past few days I’ve been unfocused so let’s run it! As usual I’m pretty intimidated by these themes but I’m not as intimidated as usual.”

“Book Goal for the year!! 11/11!! Whoop whoop! Can’t wait to see all the books im going to read next year. Picking up reading was easily one of the best choices I have ever made. All the information in each of these books changed my life for the better in ways I could never have even imagined.”

“11/12 – I felt like was going crazy last week because nothing was going right and everything seemed so much more difficult than it needed to be, but now I see that it was me rejecting the themes for this month. I was not patient and I was not focused but now that I’ve realized that, I just kept my head down, focused, and now things are starting to work out. Patience is really hard for me to get under control.”

“11/20 – it’s like I’m just believing that staying focused helps me be patient but I feel like I’m slightly better at focusing. Not as good as my MCAT study days (I want to beat my old record 3hr attention span with 1.5 hr no breaks), right now I break at around 1 hour. Patience is interesting though. I’m finally able to teach this class next semester even though I pictured being done with the whole thing within 8 months. It’s a year and a half and it lives. It’s much better to take my time and slow cook it. Everyone I presented to was impressed with it. I just need to be patient. Tonight was proof that patience is key. I just need to stay focused as I have been.”

“End of November – i feel like I’m slightly more patient but I feel as if my focus isn’t as high as it could be. At the beginning of the month, I was only able to sit and work for like an hour but I’ve gotten up to about an hour and a half It’s an improvement but I feel like the work im doing requires the artist to be able to focus on it for long periods of time. Once I get my attention span up, I’ll make my work better.”

CM: This month I noticed that my patience for everything was running thin, so I decided to make it a theme again. I was hesitant at first, but I figured I’m never going to perfect this skill within a month so I’ll repeat it as many times as necessary. Plus when I start adding in more rules, things get too complicated. And when things get more complicated, friction comes and I stop doing things. Friction is probably my number 1 worst enemy. I also reached my book goal for the year in this month. I read 20 books, some of which are on my Must Read Book List. This was the first year I took reading seriously, and it was easily one of the best choices I’ve ever made in my life. The knowledge I’ve acquired from these books has given me a new way of looking at the world and experiencing life. Reading is one of those things that can’t be done too much. I was able to compare my attention span between now and when I used to be a pre-med study fiend. I’ve lost some skill, partly due to lack of practice, but I’ve been trying to get back on the long-term concentration horse. It’s been getting slightly better, but I’m nowhere near where I used to be. This was the month I showed my course to prospective parents and students and it was a hit! People loved what I had to say and couldn’t wait to sign up in the spring. We’ll see how much of that will hold into the new year, but it’s nice to know that there are people out there who are receptive to my work. It helped offset my incessant delusion that what I’m doing isn’t worthwhile. It just took way longer than I expected, so I guess it’s fitting that I had that experience during my “patience” month. My patience and focus got a little better by the end of the month, and it’s something I try to improve on every day. At the moment, I don’t really see any noticeable gains, but I know in a few months or weeks I’ll notice a difference in my focus.

December: Integrity & Vulnerability 

“12/1 – fuck these themes lol integrity is something I know I need to work on for myself. It’ll make my experience of my life easier to handle. Vulnerability is necessary for my art to really find a place in the world. I keep holding things back bc I don’t want to be vulnerable and my art, my business, and my productivity is suffering because of it”

“End of December – I didn’t write as much this semester because my bargaining ass knew I was writing this blog post and it “counts” for the month of December, but as I write this I realize how purely idiotic that was. I spent a huge portion of the month working on bringing Integrity back into my life. I came across opposition of all kinds. External, internal, physical, psychological, you name it. I was able to bring back integrity to my room, but as far as much schedules, routines, and other aspects of my life, my integrity still isn’t whole. I probably hit 70% of my integrity goals this month so it’s very likely that I’ll start 2020 off with integrity as a theme again. As for vulnerability, I made an effort to show more positive emotion towards people and showing the work I’ve created despite my fear of judgement and rejection. I’ve been resistant towards these themes pretty much the whole month, but I do think I’ve gotten at least 1% better. I know I’ll need to do this theme again too.”

CM: I really liked reflecting over this year. I feel like I understood what I was doing a little bit better and I’m actually excited to bring just as much, if not more, energy and attention into 2020. I aim to expand on the foundation I’ve built, and hopefully reach out to more people. This was the year I finally feel like I have a grip on the world around me, how it works, and how I am going to navigate in it and with that knowledge came a flurry of creative projects designed to express my multidimensional existence. I used this year to learn about myself and birth new traditions that hopefully fit into something bigger and worthwhile to other people. I’m excited for the story to continue. I know I have more work cut out for me than ever before, but it’s exciting work that I find useful and meaningful. Cheers 🍻to a tough, challenging, but rewarding 2019 and more of the same in 2020.

If you made it down here thanks for reading this! I know I don’t usually post these kinds of things but the reflection is important and I figured I might as well share it since the theme for this month is Vulnerability.

By Chris

During the day, I’m a tutor and EMT.
In the evenings, I like to blog and produce music.