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Currently in Dubai, UAE

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2019: A Year of Money, Milestones, and Mindfulness


2019 will go down in the record books as one of the most momentous years in my life. I don't say that lightly. I cannot remember a year I went through so many changes and came out the other side nearly an entirely different person. Most of those changes were in the realms of health, fitness, and spirituality. Actually, all of the biggest changes were in those areas. To twist the old cliche, if you'd have told me I would end the year a slim vegan with a daily meditation and yoga practice, I'd have pushed you down a flight of stairs and waddled straight to Buffalo Wild Wings to properly indulge in a meaty feast.



before and after (well, my hair is shorter now)

I documented a lot of the beginning of this trend from last March if you want to learn more. Since then, I've used my obsession super power to properly go down the lettuce lined rabbit hole. In many ways, I'm still at the beginning of the journey, and I have huge amounts to learn. Documentaries like this one below helped a lot!





The most basic takeaways from a year of massive progress are:

1. You can take control of your health by changing what you eat and drink. Substitution is a powerful force. You don't have to buy into the idea that your genes determine your fate. At this point I'm down 50 pounds from my heaviest at the beginning of the year. My skin cleared up, I don't have sleep apnea any more, I don't snore, my blood sugar is under control, my cholesterol and blood pressure are in ideal ranges, my circulation is better.

2. Yoga is amazing. I really think this, as much as anything else, has led a lot of the pieces to fall into place for me. Not only is it great for your body in a low-impact way, it lowers your cortisol levels and that leaves you much less stressed and your body able to shed fat easier. It also somehow made me want to stop eating animal products, well before I learned about the principle of Ahimsa (the Eastern tradition of non-harm).

3. Mindfulness is an incredibly powerful force for being in the present moment, being in-tune with your body and emotions, diminishing anxiety and fixation, and finding peace.

4. I finally really understand the idea of a growth mindset. I realized that I could be a flexible and well-balanced (physically, I mean) person, if I put in the time and effort to work at it. This has opened up a whole world of ways I can learn and grow.

5. Don't be afraid to change your identity. As well as being a vegan, yoga loving hippy, I'm now comfortable calling myself a Buddhist. This is a first for me. More on this to come later.


Don't worry though, I'm still a Buddhist, Vegan, Hippy who likes money.

2019 was certainly my most profitable year as well! Let's break it down in traditional, transparent Happiest Teacher style.

1. Total Income: $73,200 from all sources.

2. Side Hustle Income: $18,698 (holy crap, that's like a full time wage!) This is from six sources:

Writing has really taken off this year, and so have dividends and house hacking that I didn't have last year. Music went down, with a very slow first few months of the year. If anything, this number is low, because I'm still owed for some articles and gigs that haven't been paid yet, but should be coming in the next couple weeks. Compared to last year, my side hustles brought in $10,000 MORE! Go side hustles!

3. Net Worth: $185,000. That's a $60,000 increase in ONE year! Thank you good stock market!

4. Savings Rate: 61% for the year!

5. Savings Amount: $44,564.

6. Amount Invested: $46,000


There were a couple of big milestones reached as well.

1. I hit FIRE! Well, it's Lean South East Asia FIRE, but it's nice to know that I could retire and never work again if I really wanted to. I'm not going to, but it's good to have options!

2. I got a job teaching in China next year! My time in Dubai is coming to a close at the end of June. I'll be closer to my girlfriend and in an amazing school in beautiful Shekou.


Where I'll spend the next two years (at least!)

In Conclusion!

I'm extremely excited to see where 2020 takes me. I mean, I know it'll take me to China, but if 2019 changed me so fundamentally, how is that going to build? I planted a lot of seeds of growth this year, and some are blooming nicely, but I have no idea what the garden will look like in the following year.


I have two resolutions:

1. Spend at least 10 min a day learning Chinese. I was just there for Christmas, and it really hit home how much I'll need to speak at least rudimentary Chinese to get around successfully. I've already started using two different free apps, Zizzle which helps visual learners by creating stories around words and characters, and ChineseSkill. I am enjoying them both, but I want to make sure I stick to these and don't drift off, like most resolutions.

2. Learn and practice Buddhism daily, whether that's meditation, dharma talks, reading books, or watching videos on it, I want to increase my knowledge and understanding every day.


What about you? What are your key lessons this year? Was 2019 good for you, or a year you are happy to leave behind? Whatever the case, I wish you an amazing 2020. Learn, grow, and make progress.


If you liked this post, come join the discussion over at The Happiest Teacher Facebook Group! I would love to have your voice added to the discussion! Also, if you're into that Twitter life, come follow me!