Best of everything in 2019

The things I enjoyed the most and why

I’m generally a bit of a dork about quantification. Bit of a dork generally, if I’m honest. So I enjoy analyzing and measuring and recording things I do. Some part of it is for optimizing, but a large part is just for… knowing. My brain is wired like that. Not knowing is painful. Knowing is good.

So I thought I’d add a qualitative touch to the statistics I posted earlier about 2019. Rather than just numbers, I’d share some perspective on my personal highlights of the year. It might help you find something interesting to do or experience, or buy.

For convenience, I’ve divided these into three categories: content you can consume, products you can buy, and experiences you can have. I’ve thrown in some favorite photos from 2019 for fun.

NOTE: I don’t get paid by anyone to recommend anything, so any links I provide are for your enjoyment purely. Enjoy!

Content you can consume

Best Book: Fountainhead by Ayn Rand

Total books read: 31 (17,095 pages)

If I look at my ratings on Goodreads.com, it looks like I read lots of great books in 2019. The most 5-star ratings I’ve ever given in a year, so I’ve decided to list all of the top-rated books here with several honorable mentions. Generally, the most I’ve read in any single year. The only period that surpassed this volume was the summer of 2013 when I binge-read all the Game of Thrones books.

Sometimes you have experiences that somehow validate your life. I guess it could be anything; a movie, a date, a great hotdog. I had that kind of experience with this book. I’m my special kind of stupid just like everyone else, but this book was that same exact flavor of stupid that I’ve become. It’s pretty unlikely you’ll have the same experience, but even if you don’t, I recommend this as a literary and philosophical classic. I recently wrote a rather lengthy blog on the book, with tons of quotes and analysis, if you want to know more about Ayn Rand and her philosophy.

The book is about architecture in Manhattan. So, here’s my photo of Manhattan from a memorable trip.

Runner up: The Three-Body Problem by Liu Cixin

I’m a huge believer that sci-fi is how we actually create the future. Look at Elon Musk. He’s creating the world that sci-fi promised in the year 2000. Sci-fi is about exploring the impossible, or what lies just out of reach today. Not just exploring science itself, which would become boring pretty quickly, but the implications of new science. How it changes our lives, our culture, our psychology, even our physiology. I’ve always wanted to live in the future, so this is my golden ticket. Having said all that, what makes this book special among all the sci-fi greats? It just goes so much further than you think could even be imagined. Further in scope. Further in science. Further in time. To the very ends of space and time, in fact. I would just turn pages and gasp out loud at the audacity and creativity of Cixin. It literally boggles the mind continuously. You simply have to read it. Preferably the whole trilogy, as they escalate exponentially in scale and craziness with each book.

Honorable mentions: Tiamat’s Wrath (The Expanse #8), The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich, The Golden Sayings of Epictetus, and the ginormous 21-volume History of Friedrich II of Prussia.

Best Podcast: Sean Carroll’s Mindscape

Total podcast subscriptions: 51

If anything is clear to me in 2019, it’s that I may have a podcast problem. Well, to be honest, I almost never take time to specifically listen to podcasts. I just put them on at the gym and during commutes. That can be up to 3 hours per day, so it adds up! I used to listen to music, but I’ve shifted music-listening primarily during work hours, greatly boosting my podcast hours. I also finally started listening to some at 1.5x speed, to further drive those stats up.

For me, a good podcast is mainly about content, but I do notice that the host and their voice matters a lot. Sean Carroll has both. I’ve always been curious about physics, mostly because it explains everything, or at least tries to more than any other science. I was sadly never smart enough (or dumb enough) to make a career in physics, but I like to keep up with and continuously expand my understanding of how the universe works. Simply, Sean Carroll does that better than anyone in the podcast world.

Runner up: The Drive by Dr. Peter Attia

I do a lot of research for Healthzilla on all topics related to health, fitness, and longevity. That covers a lot of ground, which means you run into a lot of nonsense. Especially in fitness and longevity. People selling products that guarantee results, with zero science or research to prove it. People buy it, because… abs and booties. This is why I have tremendous respect for Dr. Attia. His background of not only medicine but engineering cuts through the B.S. like a lightsaber through storm troopers.

Honorable mentions: Making Sense with Sam Harris, Ask a Spaceman!, The Ron Burgundy Podcast, Artificial Intelligence with Lex Friedman, Dan Carlin’s Hardcore History, and our own Healthzilla Weekly.

Best Podcast Episode: Joe Rogan Podcast with John Carmack

Total episodes listened: 316 (gasp!)

I grew up with videogames. Sad reality. I grew out of it. Sad reality. I spent a lot of hours on the edge of my seat gripping my joystick with John’s creations. Wolfenstein. Doom. Quake. PC gaming is pretty much John Carmack. Without him, you don’t play Battlefield or Fortnite. Put it that way. So he’s pretty cool. Oh, and he also supercharged Ferraris. And built a rocket company. That failed. Then he pretty much built Oculus, which created the VR genre and sold to Facebook. Now, he’s focusing on A.I., but not just any A.I., but Artificial General Intelligence. What a living legend, that just keeps getting more legendary over time.

Runner up: Ask a SpaceMan! (Is String Theory Worth It? Parts 1–5)

Despite the goofy name, and often goofy host, this is a serious undertaking. It’s like the podcast equivalent of PBS Spacetime on Youtube. The goal here is a complete understanding of space and time. For the layman. Ambitious. It’s hard enough to understand general relativity, quantum mechanics, and string theory… but to explain it in layman's terms. Yeesh. Paul M. Sutter does it exceptionally well given the audio-only format. His most ambitious attempt yet has been String Theory, which is on its fifth episode and going strong. It combines history and analogy to elucidate the nuances and meaning from perhaps the most abstract of all theories. Or approximations of theories, in this case.

Best Movie: First Man (2018)

Total movies rated: 30

Looking at my ratings on IMDb, 2019 wasn’t a great year in movies. Granted, I watched many from other years, and the two best rated were from 2018, but still. I didn’t see anything close to landing a 10/10 or that I’ll remember years from now.

As a space nerd, this was a treat for the sense though. I’m glad this movie was made. I recently read The Right Stuff by Tom Wolfe, which describes the times before the Apollo Program, when the term astronaut was being defined and formed. As a movie, it’s solid, but again, somewhat forgettable.

Best performance would go to my daughter’s rendition of Clara in The Nutcracker. I actually cried a little when she came on stage. The beauty of the moment was just overwhelming. Photo by me.

Runner up: BlacKkKlansman (2018)

Perhaps the most emotionally charged movie I’ve seen in years, you genuinely had to ask how this movie got made. How the actors were picked. How they accepted the roles. Plus the baddest bad guy is Finnish. It’s just ripping open the festering wounds of racism in America. It’s funny and disturbing often within the same scene. It’s not perfect, but it is pretty memorable nonetheless. I’m glad movies like this get made in our time.

Best TV Show: Chernobyl (HBO)

I was 6 years old when it happened. I still remember watching on TV. My mom totally freaking out, because we lived downwind in Helsinki, Finland. By the time the news broke, the fallout had already landed. Iodine tablets for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. I remember being scared and confused, but as kids do I forgot and got over it quickly. This miniseries is crafted so well it feels like a documentary in many ways. Casting and acting is just masterful. The attention to detail in sets and costumes is staggering. An experience.

Runner up: The Expanse (Amazon Prime)

I keep recommending The Expanse to people, because it’s genuinely the only case in history where the show is better than the books. And I truly love the books. The show is that good. A lot of it has to do with the production quality and investment in CGI, but mostly with casting choices. They just nailed it. We’re already on season 4, but the books are up to 8, so lots more to come thanks to Jeff Bezos who saved the show from cancellation.

Honorable mentions: None. GoT Season 8 was so disappointing I won’t even mention it. Dangit. Well, read the books. Or maybe wait until they’re finished. Which might be any time… never. Ugh. FML.

Best album: Sergei Rachmaninoff: Complete RCA Recordings (1919)

I seem to have distinct phases in my music listening. Without any doubt, 2019 was the year of classical music for me. Past years have been focused on Rap, Jazz, and Electronica. With most of my commute and gym time being devoted to podcasts, my music listening has been limited to work. For me, personally, the best work music is without lyrics. There’s research that shows the structural patterns of melodies in classical music can boost focus. I would support that claim, anecdotally.

I originally stumbled upon Rachmaninoff as he is referenced multiple times in Ayn Rand’s Fountainhead, this year’s best book. In that reference, his second piano concerto is presented as an example of human achieved perfection. I’m no music expert of any kind, but Rachmaninoff reminds me of jazz. There is structure there, but it is complex, layered, and fast-paced. The first movements of his 2nd and 3rd piano concertos have been heavy on my playlist this year, almost to the point of obsession.

This album, or rather a collection of 10 albums, was actually recorded in 1919. Rachmaninoff was a large man with freakishly large hands, which made him a unique virtuoso on the piano. His music is amazing, but this is perhaps the only classical composer that you can actually hear playing his own music. Imagine hearing Mozart play Mozart. Beethoven play Beethoven. This is that! I love that, despite the obviously low-fi quality. It’s the real deal.

Runner up: Beethoven’s 9th Symphony by Leonard Bernstein (1969)

Everyone has heard some Beethoven. It took me years to really appreciate and find the Beethoven I actually love. I started with Wagner, then Mozart, and then rediscovered Beethoven. I‘ve read a lot of books about the tumultuous 19th century, which represents the transition from classical history to modern history, facilitated by war and the industrial revolution. I can feel that intensity and pomp in his music, and love listening to Beethoven when reading history. It takes you to a time and place.

Products you can buy

Best Product: Filson Backpack

Lifetime warranty. The best shopping experience in NYC. It is all. Mine is a limited edition with a Mossy Oak camo design. I love me some durable, quality goods in my everyday carry.

Runner up: Grand Seiko SBGA407

Bit of a douche move to add a luxury product, but I earned it so… suck it. Any watch these days is either a fashion statement or statement of wealth, to be brutally honest. I definitely don’t have much fashion sense, so I fall into the latter, unfortunately. To me though, what draws me in is the craftsmanship. The sense of an object from another time, when watches were life and death tools for pilots, sailors, and divers.

Having owned many a douchey watch, I must say that Grand Seiko is the epitome of quality. The final resting place of the purist watch aficionado. You simply cannot fault it. Every watch is hand finished. Rolex doesn’t do that. Patek Philippe does, but for 10x the price. Yet, the proprietary Spring Drive movement keeps better time than most quartz watches. It’s the right size, it fits the wrist naturally. The dial mimics the fresh, yet lightly drifted snow near the Shiojiri factory in winter. Nothing else touches it, frankly.

You see how the dial is like snow that’s drifted a little? How the hands are like Samurai swords? I love Japan. Photo by me.

Japanese do the same with everything. The Yamazaki line of single malt whiskeys ranks among the best in the world. The craftsmen who make each Nakaya fountain pen by hand have first retired with 50 years of service from parent company Platinum to even qualify for the job. The engine note for the Lexus LFA supercar was tuned by the orchestral engineers at Yamaha’s acoustic division. It is the Japanese way. Obsessive levels of quality. They will hone any craft until it is… simply, the best. If Hattori Hanzo wore a watch, I feel it would be Grand Seiko.

Honorable mentions: Lamy Safari fountain pen, Lems Boulder Boot.

Best investment: Bitcoin

This might be a bit of a weird category to add in, but since I have data on it, and I spend lots of time doing it, I’m going to include it. Investing, or trading morelike, is something I enjoy as a hobby. I like to research and speculate on financial products. I don’t tend to hold things for years, more like weeks or months at most. I always trade with a “stop-loss”, meaning I always know how much I’m willing to lose at most.

So in 2019, my best investment was Bitcoin. I didn’t get in early years ago like the crypto-millionaires. I wasn’t that crazy. I actually don’t really invest a meaningful chunk of my own money in crypto, I mainly do it for my kids. I’m much much more conservative with my own savings, but since my kids have lots of time on their side, I can gamble on their behalf. Being mostly long, but occasionally short, I managed to double my kids' money last year.

Runner up: ISHARES 20+ YEAR TREASURY BO ($TLT)

This seems rather odd given the continued bull run in equities, led by Apple’s insane performance in 2019. Yet out of all individual investments, the biggest contribution was from me catching the uptrend in long U.S. bonds. My investment strategy is always focused on low volatility to match my disgust for losses, so I tend to miss out of big equity upswings, but I’m always well protected from downward spikes that occur occasionally. Yes, I do miss out on performance, but in my current life situation as a founder of two startups, let’s just say I put a pretty big emphasis on liquidity, even in favor of growth.

Best Whiskey: Highland Park 1989 by Gordon Macphail

Total ratings: 80

I sort of got obsessed, as I do, about whiskey in 2019. Why? How? Well, as in a lot of my obsessions, I don’t like to buy anything on a whim. Especially things that cost more than say $50 and are meant to last a long time. I’ve had one bottle of whiskey on my shelf for years. My grandfather always had a bottle of Laphroaig scotch on the shelf, and so I felt it was a thing gentlemen did. The first bottle on my shelf (Lagavulin 16) was a gift from my boss. I would have a dram or two with my dad when he visited. When it ran out after a few years, I just bought the cheapest single malt I could find at the airport (Glenmorangie 10). After that ran out after another few years, I researched the next one, and I got the bug. Big time. Now I have 6 on the shelf at home and another 5 at the office. I have a dram, which is maybe 1cl worth, one or two nights a week. More tasting than drinking, then.

Back to this bottle. To explain what’s special about this bottle, I kind of need to explain what’s special about whiskey. Context matters, trust me. It starts with just three basic ingredients: water, yeast, and barley. All three taste like… nothing, really. So how do you get coconuts, stewed apricots, burnt toast, and sea spray in the bottle? Three basic processes: fermentation, distilling, and finally ageing for a minimum of 3 years. Whut?! It’s just chemistry. The three basic ingredients transform through three processes into thousands of organic compounds. Every variable matters. The length of fermentation. The shape of the distilling pot. The material of the cask. The humidity and temperature of the warehouse. Endless variables create endless varieties.

In the hierarchy of whiskeys, the bottom rung is the blends. Using control of said variables to create said varieties, they combine many outputs in great mixing vats in great volumes to create consistent branded whiskeys. Watered down to a standard 40%. Think Johnny Walker. Every bottle tastes the same, always. The next level up would be single malts, with or without age statements. This means you’re still mixing batches, but only within one distillery. The cream of the crop, literally, is single casks. It’s what you think it is. As an outcome of all the variables, one cask full of aged whiskey turns out exceptional. You put that in a bottle marked with the cask number. No messing around. No filtration, no water, no nothing. This is that bottle. It is exceptional. This picking of special casks from special distillers is the special business of Gordon Macphail.

Not only that, but it was actually bottled in 1989. Think about it. I was a kid. The Berlin Wall came down. I am drinking something of a time capsule. This great cask full of 600 liters or so of distilled scotch from the famed Highland Park distillery on the Orkney Islands went into storage for 29 years. What does such glory in the form of dark amber nectar entail in flavor? A spiced red apple and peach pie, with vanilla sauce, served inside an old gentleman’s library. With an old leather chair next to the fireplace. The window is open to the seashore carrying a salty tang in the air. You see? Great whiskey takes you places.

Score: 9.5/10

Runner up: Springbank 10

I may have had better whiskeys objectively speaking, but a lot of those are either expensive or just hard to get. The beauty of this whiskey is that it is neither. Well, you won’t find Springbank in most airport duty-free shops outside of maybe Scotland, but still, it’s around if you look for it. It’s everything a connoisseur would look for. Complex. Smokey, yes, but also interesting with flavors you would rarely think to combine. Balanced without any rough edges. Takes your palate on a journey. Mind you, this isn’t necessarily going to be a favorite for a beginner. I’ve noticed that through tasting more and more varieties, I’ve gone back to revisit a lot of my previous likes and dislikes. Sometimes in full circle, but Springbank is one that seems to prevail among aficionados longterm.

Score: 8.5/10

Some favorites from the collection. I love the detailed gilt boxes the bottles come in. Photo by me.

Best Wine: Grand Vintage Rosé Brut Champagne 2002

Total ratings: 36

I had bought this wine in 2002 to save for my wife’s 30th birthday in 2014. We’re not huge drinkers, so we didn’t want to open it and finish it with just the two of us. Certainly didn’t want to throw any away. So we saved it for later. It kind of just stayed that way, until one day I suggested to my wife that we drink it before it spoils. Anything over 10 years for most champagne and wine is a lot, and sometimes too much. So when a connoisseur of all-things-fine-and-good friend of mine visited, I suggested we pop the cork. This was my first real vintage champagne, so it was interesting. The color was dark. Way dark orange, to where I wondered if it had gone bad. But luckily, the delicious nose put that worry to rest. Some of the magical notes include pink grapefruit, croissants, and gunpowder.

Score: 9/10.

Runner up: Wairau River Pinot Noir 2018

I’ve only become more interested in wine after my exploration of flavors within whiskey. It’s not that I haven’t enjoyed wine before, or that I haven’t appreciated great wine when I’ve had it. It’s more that they all kind of seemed to belong to a narrow spectrum in flavor, that it seemed a little pointless to nitpick this French red variety from that Chilean red variety. Red is berries, white is fruity. End of story. With whiskey, the differences and distances in flavor profiles are far greater and easier to pick up.

Cutting another meandering story short, the way I’ve discovered to navigate these profiles is through an app. The benefit of an app is that it provides you a lot of context for each wine you taste, along with information and flavor notes. More info on the app I use, Vivino, below. So, what about this wine then? Well, as I whiskey aficionado I find myself attracted to the complexity of the Pinot Noir grape. Smoke. Oak. Cherries. Tobacco. Living in Singapore, I also have ample access to many Marlborough, New Zealand varieties, and this one has proven to be a favorite that is also accessible.

Score: 8/10.

Experiences you can have

Best Meal: Lobster Roll at Lobster Place, Chelsea Market, NYC

While I can appreciate fine dining in fancy restaurants, I’m much more attracted to seek out great street food and casual bistro type places. Often the most memorable meals are associated with a memorable context. An event. A trip. In this case, it was our month in NYC, more on that below. Yes, the bagels are great. Yes, the pizza is sensational. But to me, the most memorable of all is the lobster roll. Particularly, this one.

What a thing. Crispy bun. Huge chunks of fresh lobster. C’mon now. Photo by me.

Runner up: Local produce in Margaret River, Australia

I enjoy cooking myself quite a lot, given time and nice ingredients. I’ve been to Margaret River twice now, and it gives you both. There isn’t that much to do, in a sense, apart from the vineyards and sights. So you sleep in late, and lounge around in the evening. Lots of time to enjoy the amazing farm produce you can buy off the dirt roads, or the farmer’s market on weekends. I got some heirloom tomatoes, purple cauliflower, beef entrecote cuts, fig and apricot bread, and of course butter. Farm fresh, and just some of the best food on the planet.

I mean there’s tomatoes, and then there’s these bad boys. Photo by me.

Best Service: Turo

Airbnb for cars. That actually sums it up. But oh, what cars they have. No Kias or Hyundais in sight. Teslas. Maseratis. Porsches. Lambos. Whatever your heart desires. Yes, a lot of them are crazy expensive, as you’d expect. But, you might find some pretty interesting compared to your premium offerings at Hertz or Budget. Rather than get a boring Buick sedan, for the same price you could drive a BMW M3. Or Dodge Charger. For car guys like me, this is big news. I’ve just used it once, more on that below, but the experience was pretty much exactly like Airbnb. Which is a good thing. You can even pay to have cars delivered to the airport, and a lot of the conveniences of big rental shops are covered by Turo including insurance.

Runner up: Vivino

One of the challenges of becoming someone who can appreciate wine is the sheer scale of the problem. All the countries, varieties, vineyards, and vintages. How do you know what’s good, and what to try? Solution: Vivino. It comes with an ingenious scanning feature using your phone camera. Scan multiple bottles on the shelf or even the whole wine list! You instantly get ratings, tasting notes, price ranges, and reviews to guide your choice. For a data nut like me, this turns buying wine from painful to enjoyable. I just hate making uneducated choices.

Best car: Porsche 911 Carrera 4S Cabriolet (2017)

Cars driven: 7

I’ve always been a massive car guy. To the point that my car is a strong part of my identity and personal freedom. Fun fact: I don’t own a car right now, because Singapore is the most expensive and silliest place to own a car. By fun, I actually meant super depressing. This pains me. Greatly. Like I’ve been robbed of a manly body part. The island is small and basically has exactly zero driving roads. I had a beautiful ’08 Subaru WRX that I adored, but it was a glorified shopping cart here. It had to let it find freer pastures. You go on now, boy…

Porsche has always been the pinnacle for me. Not for show. For purity. The 911. It will be mine. Oh yes, it will be mine. Some day. Not today. So to salvage my robbed manhood, I’ve begun to splurge on rental cars. If I go on a work trip, instead of having the company pay for a dreadful Kia, I pay on my own dime for something nice. For me. Because my soul demands it. Well, this year I went all in, thanks to Turo. So I got me a Porsche 911 for two days. In New York. I was king for a day. Or two.

The lines. The details. The materials. It’s just a timeless classic. My pulse goes up just looking at it. Photo by me.

Having researched the minutiae of every modern and classic edition of the 911, down to what wheel design and exhaust upgrades I would have for each, I knew pretty well what to expect. It still surprised me positively. Years ago I drove an older Porsche Boxter for 5 minutes but wasn’t instantly blown away. This, however, was pretty much a brand new model, and just oozed quality from first sight. The doors. The seats. The steering wheel. The buttons. Just better than almost any car out there.

Driving… was also surprising. I somehow thought it might be a little daunting, but it’s just like any regular car until you depress the accelerator some extra. The way I’d describe the driving experience is like… a train. The four-wheel-drive is so stable at any speed. The steering so precise. It’s just… solid. Everything feels metallic when most cars feel… plastic and rubbery. It was glorious in all ways. Honestly, if anything, I would go for an older, slower non-turbocharged model with rear-wheel-drive. It’s more fun when you get to use more of a car’s potential. This one was almost too much to use in any reasonable sense on public roads, and I suspect losing the extra front grip would add a little extra drama to the twisty back roads.

Runner up: BMW 430i Cabriolet

This was my other rental splurge of the year. Considering it was half price for a week from the Porsche for just 2 days, it’s a lot of value. You can find this model in a lot of US mainstream rentals. It’s a superb example of German engineering. Looks amazing, yet goes under the radar. The folding metallic roof is super functional. Oozes quality inside and out. Plenty of power, and that great rear-wheel handling you would expect from BMW. Great for dodging deer in the headlights (literally) on the mountain roads off Yosemite. I would rent again in a heartbeat.

Honorable mention: Golf GTI

Best check-in: Bambu Tower, Singapore

Total check-ins: 283

Reunited with some old pals at The Bambu Tower. What a joy to have the privilege to hire the best people you know!

I almost don’t know why I still use Foursquare anymore. It’s not cool anymore. It’s weird. But there’s a charm to maintaining an old habit. Healthier than cocaine, I guess. My wife hates it when I use Foursquare to find restaurants because they’re usually hard to find and end up being closed. But, at least I got to add our new office, The Bambu Tower, and check-in. I’m glad to report I’m still the mayor of Bambu Tower. The competition is low. Non-existant, really, because millennials have never heard of Foursquare. At least I have my friends on Myspace. Guys. Guys?

Best workout: Extreme Isometrics

Total workouts: 12,775 minutes

I work out every day. I mix it up between easy cardio, hard cardio, and strength training. I’ve researched almost every imaginable program out there from superslow reps to daily undulating periodization. Say that five times, really fast. We’ve even included many of those in the Healthzilla app. Something I’ve been curious about for a while now is isometrics. They’ve been around, but usually as the sideshow, never the main event. Weird trickery you add around your main program, if at all. So when I heard about a daily routine of 5-minute isometric holds, I had to try it. Apparently, because the position is at the maximum stretch of the muscle, it triggers very fast contractions of your muscle repeatedly. Hence the uncontrollable shaking you’ll be experiencing.

The good news is that you can do a total body workout in less than 30 minutes, and you can do this anywhere, it’s bodyweight only. The bad news is, that it hurts. Really, you can’t imagine until you try it. Hold a deep lunge for 5 minutes. It’s madness! Obviously, you fail and fall down. Then you get right back and keep going. It’s brutal. But in that good kind of way. This is now my new go-to hotel and/or travel workout in the absence of a) time b) gym.

Best meditation: Stillness

Total meditation: 4,745 minutes

I started doing daily meditation in the office probably close to two years ago now. Most of that has been guided meditation. It’s easier when you have a group of people participating, and some may be newbies or even first-timers. Yet my favorite skill within meditation has been stillness. It’s pretty easy. Just imagine that for the duration of the exercise, say 10 minutes, you have lost the ability to move a muscle. Absolute stillness, apart from breathing. I’ve found tremendous freedom in that statement of mind over body. That you can decide to forego your body’s signals to fidget and avoid discomfort and pain. I feel this is a valuable lesson that can be carried outside of meditation practice and adds a welcome jolt of grit to the day.

Runner up: Waking Up by Sam Harris

Headspace and Calm might be easier to approach, but if you’re serious about deepening a mindfulness practice, look no further. Sam goes way beyond what I’ve seen elsewhere, and his 50-day course is worth the money to give you the tools for life. After that, you can go back to a free timer and keep practicing on your own.

Best holiday: New York City, USA

Total flights: 28

My daughter was invited to a ballet school in NYC after a scouting event here in Singapore. We didn’t hesitate because a) I want to teach my kids to reach for opportunities b) it was three weeks in New York c) #YOLO.

To my horror Airbnb for three weeks in Manhattan was actually more expensive than a decent hotel, so we racked up a bigger hotel bill than Kevin in Home Alone 2. Still, I thought, when am I ever going to get the opportunity to live in Manhattan? Just do it. NYC has a special place in my heart anyway since that’s where my wife and I first headed on our honeymoon 13 years ago now.

The best part of such a long holiday is losing track of time. Not having any urgency to do anything at all, even in New York. Just the routine of a morning run in Central Park. Queuing up for bagels and coffee. Taking the train to Bryant Park. Reading as long as we cared to. That’s what I’ll never forget.

Runner up: Val Thorens, France

At 10,000ft high on the peak of Mt. Caron, you feel on top of the world. Photo by me.

Our annual winter retreat has become a family tradition, daresay an outright ritual. I’ve always looked down on people who have the same holiday every year. Go to the same destination. Stay at the same hotel. Do the same activities. Eat at the same restaurants. So that’s exactly what I’ve started doing! I still wouldn’t do it for any other type of holiday, so reasons: a) ski holidays are tricky with logistics (car, equipment rental, ski school, hotel, slopes, and of course distance between all the above) 10x so with kids b) our kids Christmas holidays are in early December, and there is exactly one resort in the entire world with a snow guarantee from mid-November onwards — Val Thorens. With this magical recipe, we get to maximize time-on-slopes and minimize headaches.

Honorable mention: Weekend dive trip with my dad and my daughter, three generations of certified divers!

Best day: Saturday, 13th of July

I started the morning with a run through Central Park, just as the early golden light was peaking through the trees. It was quiet. It was perfect. Then we went for brunch at Madison in Turtle Bay. We sat by the panoramic window and watched New Yorkers start their weekends. We took the train to the Filson flagship store, which makes shopping fun for guys who hate shopping. We had tickets to Beetlejuice on Broadway, which was 10x better than the movie. Even people who hate theater would love that show. Finally, we had some takeaway pizza from Roberta’s at Urbanspace. It was a big weekend, we already had Yankees tickets for Sunday, but decided to go all out and catch the sunset from a helicopter ride. I’m always a big believer in anticipation and the excitement for planning, so Saturday was actually better than Sunday.

Runner up: Saturday, 26th of January

It’s hard to take a bad picture in Yosemite. Photo by me.

The second best day was also super memorable, and also in America coincidentally. It was a longer work trip, so we had a weekend in between to kill. My cofounder is also pretty outdoorsy and adventurous, and since we were in San Francisco, we were like hey let’s drive to Yosemite. It’s only like 4 hours. One-way. It was 50/50 that it would be closed because of the government shutdown. Turns out, it had just opened, and it was even free because they were happy to be back open.

There’s nature all over the world, but Yosemite is special. It’s a magical valley hidden in the mountains. We got there, parked the car and just headed out for as long as we could. Alex Honnold had just released his documentary film on his free solo climb of the 3,000ft El Capitan vertical cliff face. So we climbed the first 15ft just to say we were there. Oh, and we popped in for a swim in the literally glacial river. In January. I like cold, but it was like paralyzing cold. The most beautiful day in nature I’ve ever had. Unforgettable. Oh, and we drove in my splurge-rental BMW 430i on those glorious mountain roads, dodging wild deer. Epic day.

Well, that’s all for 2019. Here’s to a great 2020! Hopefully, a little more chill time. Maybe more wine tasting. Probably experimenting more with fasting, too.

Thinks about the future a lot. Founder of two startups. Lives in Singapore.

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