Michael Su's Blog

January Personal Progress Report

We're one month into 2019! What a crazy month it's been for me. Beyond the things I'm touching on here that I'm working on, I have tried to push myself to reach for my dreams, question my beliefs and live more deliberately.

Progress report

Some goals I've been working on:

  1. Fitness
  2. Learn Thai
  3. Morning Routine
  4. Cooking
  5. One secret life goal?

Fitness

In January, I've gained almost 2 pounds of water weight (which is awesome!) And lost 4% bodyfat which means I've gained over 7 pounds in muscle. Despite all these gains, I've lost 5 pounds of weight overall!

Cooking has been super helpful, as it's helped me regulate what I put in my body. When I went to a work retreat, I actually gained weight as it became much harder for me to regulate my intake and lost a little bit of muscle mass. Luckily, I have a cooking goal for the next few months so it'll be a lot easier to keep myself in check.

Also a mix between yoga on off-days and Freeletics for my main workout has helped me build muscle. I used apps because if I have to think about what I the workout routine is, I probably won't workout or will stop too early.

Learning Thai

So I decided to learn Thai at the end of November so I can chat with my girlfriend's mom. But in January, I thought I should quit if I'm not doing it for myself. After reflecting, I realized that I had always planned on being there for awhile when I become a digital nomad and eventually when I decide to bootstrap a startup as it's pretty popular for those communities — so I decided to continue learning. This time around, instead of going through a normal class, I wanted to build my own syllabus as I find that the traditional teaching styles for most languages isn't the best for me and doesn't work toward my specific goals.

I just want to be fluent enough to hold daily conversations and read the alphabet(s). So for Thai, starting in December I started experimenting with different tools I could use. I thought back to other languages I've studied and try to draw out a method to study that works for me. Basically, I need to think in that language.

For example, with Chinese, I'm basically close enough to where I want to be where I can express myself and hold conversations with anyone. And if I work on my vocab and grammar, it'll be immediately useful as it will just add to my fluency.

For Japanese, I studied for a year through a traditional school but despite all the vocab, grammar, and characters I learned — none of it is functional. I don't think I've said a lick of Japanese in all the times I've been there. My brain just hasn't been trained to think in Japanese. So to avoid this, I'd rather know very little, but be able to converse and think in a few basic situations and add functional knowledge from there. Vocabularly and grammar should be the last focus in my opinion.

I mean who ever learned their first language through studying flashcards and grammar rules? We just learned what to say in specific contexts, and then learned the rules after we had some functional knowledge to apply it to.

So Korean. The easiest alphabet for me to learn. I think I learned it in 1 day and felt comfortable around it after reading small sections of the news with a teacher for a month. I did a little more of a self study with a teacher to learn the basics. This worked well, but really the part I appreciated the most was tonal correction for speaking the word and actual language practice. I don't really need a teacher to go through grammar and vocab. I can think in Korean but only for a very limited subset of vocabulary. Since I can still read everything, I think I'll just need to spend more time practicing vocab, learning grammar, and learning typing when I come back to it. I only learned Korean for a couple months so I'm ok with the results from when I learned it 4 years back.

So this time around for Thai, I started playing around with a couple apps and ordered a highly rated book to learn some grammar and theory.

I used an app called Drops for vocab that quickly started showing Thai letters so I switched gears to learn Thai letters. Thai has been the hardest alphabet for me to learn.

I started watching videos on the alphabet but unlike Korean, it was a lot harder for me to memorize through brute force. There's 44 consanants and 15 vowels and almost every key outputs vowels unlike English where you have keys for brackets, slashes, numbers, etc.

(Fun fact: did you know the Thai language essentially removed two letters from the alphabet because they couldn't fit them on a keyboard back in the day?)

But I thought of an awesome hack! I basically bought a Thai gel keyboard cover and then did a free online Thai typing tutorial. Within two days, I learned the whole keyboard (although I still need to memorize a few more modifiers) It's almost like a game where I'm just trying to match what I see on the screen with a finger movement. I can already copy full sentences shown in the typing app. As an added bonus, if I go slow, I can touch type — typing without looking at the keyboard.

Gel keyboard hack to learn Thai

So now as I'm going through the alphabet a second time, I already have great mental recall for identifying individual letters. Now I just have to memorize the mnemonic and sound for the letter which is now a lot easier.

With Drops, I'm slowly adding vocab and practicing recognizing letters.

Then I'm trying to add Glossika as my main form for learning once I have reading and typing down.

Glossika basically trains you to recognize sentences rather than words or phrases. Stuff like "What time is the movie?" or "How are your parents?". The reason why I think this is awesome is because when you practice typing, listening, and speaking you can start thinking in that language, and you can train yourself for real interactions if you listen to the full sentence at native speed when you're learning. When you've learned the sentences, you can swap in other vocab you've learned. This is often what I find myself doing in Chinese to communicate. It's much better than knowing tons of vocab but not being able to express yourself or understand what others are saying.

So my lesson plan for the rest of the year:

  • Finish memorizing the alphabet while practicing typing
  • Do Glossika - there's typing, reading, listening and speaking practice. All practice is with full sentences. There's 3000 sentences they use to train you.
  • Drops for practicing vocab. You can choose specific categories, so I could focus on basic food, advanced food, transportation, directions, etc.
  • Read through Thai for Beginners by Benjawan Poomsan Becker. This book is evidentally a legend among English speaking Thai learners so it's hard not to read it
  • Real Language Practice: I plan on going to Thailand later this year and getting a conversation teacher. I'll probably spend a few days first practicing some basics at the grocery store or mall, and then hop right into talking about things with a teacher where I'll set the context and we'll just roleplay or discuss.

Obviously I won't be fluent at the end of this. But I have a hunch it will be enough to make me comfortable in Thai.

Morning Routine

I touched upon this in another post but, I have spent the past month waking up usually between 5AM and 9AM which is a HUGE difference for those of you who know me.

I find the early morning beautiful and productive and it provides a much more positive addition to my mood rather than the negative feelings that creep in as I stay up late at night.

It's also let me set up a morning routine where I've put a few things that if I guarantee I can get them done everyday, I will have a much better rest of the day. These things include some exercise (at least a few pushups but sometimes a full workout), journalling, getting dressed up (someone once told me I should look good for myself — and I agree it feels good), short meditation & feeling gratitude, and cooking breakfast or making coffee. The list of what I do is still in flux but doing any of these already makes me feel better for the rest of the day.

I'm not perfect though. Sometimes I miss a morning especially when staying up late for work, but I'm learning to set better bounds on my work. I noticed how much less focused my day becomes and how much more muddled my day seems to feel so I'm setting up some time to reduce the reasons why I sleep late.

I'm working towards a "No surprises" workplace through better processes to mitigate missing my morning routine. And I think if I build a more predictable work life, I can also more easily commit to sleeping on time.

Cooking

Cooking is an example of something I love but have never completed my goals for. I supported a startup back in the day that has a cooking certification and started it but never finished.

I hit up the company and asked if they could reactivate my course and to my suprise, they added 6 months more time for free! (There's human graders for the cooking projects so they need to pay someone for those)

Part of finishing the course is to just be a better at something I am passionate about. At the same time, it's also proving to myself that I finish things I start.

I'm about a third of the way through the course now and targetting an end of March finish. Life will probably get in the way but I like that I have a comfortable buffer room to finish the course even if it takes me a bit longer.

So far, I'm gone through knife skills, general prep skills, stock, broth, salads, salad dressings, all types of eggs, vegetable prep and color and am about to do my first black box assignment which I'm sure will be amazing. The next two thirds is where all the meats, carbs, desserts, plating, and overall more decadent classes will come.

One Secret Life Goal?

For the last one, it's mostly because the details aren't totally worked out yet and I so I'll probably wait until it's finalized to talk about it. But needless to say it's been a dream of mine for over half a decade so I'm sure it will be a good feeling to achieve it.

Reflection

Overall, I'm pretty happy with where I'm at right now. If I told my bright-eye bushy-tailed 22 year old self where I am now, he'd probably be happy where I'm at. Not quite as far along as he imagined. But the things I care about now vs then are mostly the same with just a rearrangement of what's at the top.

One last thing. When I conscientiously look at where I'm at and how far I've come, I feel a deep sense of gratitude. Let that sink in. It makes life that much better — no changes or life hacks required.

Gratitude

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