Apex Developer Summit Las Vegas 2022

Last month I had the opportunity to attend and speak at the premier event of the XRPL Ledger (XRPL) community – The Apex Developer Summit in Las Vegas, USA. At the event, which is hosted annually by Ripple and the XRPL Foundation I got to meet and engage with the XRPL community, which included David Schwartz, a co-founder and current CTO at Ripple.

Before jumping into a summary of David Schwartz talk on The next iteration of XRPL, recall that XRPL is a decentralised, public blockchain led by a global developer community – think of XRPL as a public good. XRPL makes use of a federated byzantine agreement algorithm that enables fast & cheap transactions with finality achieved in 3 to 5 seconds (in simpler terms, transactions with XRP or XRPL-issued assets complete in 3 – 5 seconds). You can learn more about the XRPL here and join the community on discord here.

Now, back to David Schwartz’s keynote, he started the talk with a look at the XRPL design fundamentals which include:

  • An integrated decentralised exchange (DEX) – the XRPL has features an inbuilt DEX since the beginning (circa 2012).
  • Invariant checking – the ledger has an ability to check for bugs without corrupting the ledger.
  • Rekeyable accounts – XRPL features rekeyable accounts, which is a feature that allows for changing the transaction signing key without changing receiving key.
  • Issued assets – XRPL supports the ability to issue custom assets (e.g. stablecoins or anything fungible that has value and behaves like currency) with ease.

David went on to note some of the exciting XRPL innovations which include:

  • XLS-20d – a proposed standard to issue NFTs on the XRPL i.e. mint/burn/hold/trade NFTs. The XLS-20d is designed for scale.
  • Project Clio – a development initiative to create massive storage reduction for servers that handle queries from clients. This will increase throughput, reduce cost to access the ledger and allow the ledger to scale (bearing in mind that the ledger cannot go any faster than consensus can).
  • Hooks -a feature of XRPL that allows developers to add smart-contract like functionality to the XRPL. Hooks are small, efficient pieces of code being defined on an XRPL account, allowing logic to be executed before and/or after XRPL transactions.
  • Sidechains – a feature of XRPL that allows anyone to run a sidechain to the XRP Ledger while having the freedom to decide how their chains work. You want XRPL mechanics but assets from other chains e.g. running an EVM sidechain to allow even more developers easy access to XRPL’s feature set and bring existing Solidity-based smart contracts written for EVM-compatible chains to the XRPL. Sidechains allow you to innovate at the blockchain level i.e. L1 level e.g. if you wish to tweak the TPS you can do so. Sidechains ultimately provide horizontal scalability.

In addition to David’s keynote, the summit included other keynotes on NFTs, blockchain and law, and new ways to build with some of the ecosystem tools. Here are links to the keynotes:

And then I earlier I mentioned that I got to speak at the conference. I gave a talk on how to send and receive XRPL-based assets in low-tech environments e.g. in place where there is no internet connectivity or smartphones. Here is the link to my talk – Transacting in Low-Tech Environments, Julian Kanjere – I will write a post on this soon.

 

2022 Impact Award from Ripple blockchain’s University Blockchain Research Initiative (UBRI)

Last month (Sept 2022), Ripple’s University Blockchain Research Initiative (UBRI) hosted the 2022 UBRI Connect Summit at the University College London’s School of Management. The 2-day event brought together scholars, researchers, and thought leaders in the UBRI network to showcase blockchain initiatives, share knowledge, and inspire future research. This was very much aligned with the UBRI’s north star of championing blockchain research and development in academia. Themes covered at the event included financial inclusion, central bank digital currencies and decentralised finance (DeFi).

At the event, Titose Chembezi and I were awarded the 2022 UBRI Impact award for our work towards financial inclusion in emerging economies using blockchain technology. Receiving this award speaks to the global relevance of solutions coming out of emerging economies such as South Africa, as well as the research being carried out at the University of Cape Town and its Financial Innovation Hub. This also reaffirms my belief that financial inclusion is a human right, and blockchain technology can be a force multiplier in achieving economic access and opportunity for all, one block at a time!

#blockchain #financialinclusion #ripple #UBRIConnect2022

 

Asia Crypto Week 2022

Asia Crypto Week is a week where blockchain enthusiasts and industry veterans from around the world get together for a series of independently organised blockchain events. The week is primarily anchored on the world’s premier crypto event – Token2049, and concludes with the F1 Singapore Grand Prix. This year, Asia Crypto Week took place from Monday 26th September – Sunday 2nd September 2022. Thanks to the Algorand Foundation, I had the opportunity to attend the Algorand Tech Talk and the inaugural Algorand Greenhouse Hack Shack – both events held at the Flower Dome in the Marina Bay Gardens. 

During the tech talks on the first day, I particularly enjoyed the session on the London Bridge, presented by the team at Applied Blockchain. London Bridge is a secure bridge between the Algorand blockchain and Ethereum blockchain which allows the transfer of tokens between the former and the latter network leveraging the additional security of Algorand state proofs and trusted execution environments (Intel SGX). This was particularly intriguing as data privacy and security is one of the major themes in the FinTech projects I am involved with.

In addition to learning about the London Bridge, I also enjoyed learning about the AlgoKit which is a productised version of developer tools for Algorand that will be released in the next few months. AlgoKit, whose tagline is “a single tool to go from concept to mainnet” will have tools that include a command line tool for initiating and managing projects, a one-click network simulator and a VS code plugin etc (similar to Truffle, Ganache and the VS Code solidity plugin by Juan Blanco if you familiar with the Ethereum ecosystem). 

All in all, it was great to network with peers and investors, listen to talks from technology leaders and get my hands dirty during the hack shack workshops.

Outside of the Algorand events, I got to network with some of the TOKEN2049 crowd, enjoy the views from the top of the Marina Bay Sands and capped of the weekend with the F1 Marina Bay Night Race which did not disappoint.

Food for Thought from FoodPrint – June 2022

Julian here, founder and CEO/CTO at FoodPrint. I’m excited to be sending out an update on how we are progressing as an AgTech startup. FoodPrint is a digital food supply chain platform connecting producers, buyers and consumers. At FoodPrint, we believe in short, sustainable and transparent supply chains – they are the answer to fairer and more sustainable food systems across the globe.

I’m especially excited about 2022 as we have been setting structure and process to the business – our team has grown and going forward we will send out regular updates such as these.


Funding
2021 was a good year for us. We won the Inqola FEED Innovation Prize (South Africa), which was followed by funding from the Algorand Foundation (Singapore). With this funding, we have been able to grow the team, build our WhatsApp chatbot and anchor our supply chain solution on the Algorand Blockchain to bolster trust in the supply chain data.

We are looking to raise some seed funding in the near future, if you are an investor and would like to chat, reach out here.


Team and Partnerships
The FoodPrint team is growing, and in particular, our tech team is firing on all cylinders. We have an immediate need for a Community Manager – someone with expertise in agriculture, connections to farmers and cooperatives, entrepreneurship and community building. In addition, we are also seeking to partner with more AgriHubs/food cooperatives and bulk produce buyers/retailers – we would like them to hop on board as early adopters of our platform. If you can assist with either, drop us an email here.


Product Updates
WhatsApp Chatbot
At the end of 2021, we started work on our WhatsApp chatbot, and I am excited to say that we are almost ready to pilot this. Using our low-tech WhatsApp chatbot, farmers can register to the FoodPrint platform, and everytime they harvest and sell produce, they record this on the chatbot – creating a digital record (anchored on the blockchain) that links them to potential buyers and finance service providers (in future). The WhatsApp chatbot will be free
to use for smallholder farmers.

If you are a farmer, and would like to try out our chatbot, send a WhatsApp message to us here – https://wa.me/+27711463479 –  and you will be notified once the chatbot is live.

FoodPrint QR Codes for Track and Trace
The FoodPrint platform also supports product-specific QR Codes for consumers to scan, and read the claims or the story behind the food they are buying or about to consume. Here is an example – scan with your mobile device – and see what a provenance record looks like.

If you are a food retailer or business, and wish to provide a unique experience for your customers
(a digital touchpoint to drive consumer engagement), or a farmer wishing to tell the story about
your farm, get in touch here.

Harvest Box
We have partnered with PEDI AgriHub in Philippi Cape Town, and are piloting a fresh produce harvest box in the Southern Suburbs of Cape Town! We are especially excited about this as this is an immediate way for us to add value to local farmers and provide the farmers they support with market access. The harvest box contains fresh, quality seasonal produce. If you would like to purchase a weekly fresh produce box, you can get in touch here.


Visit to University of Zurich Blockchain Center
And lastly, last month, I had the opportunity to share how FoodPrint is bringing blockchain technology to food supply chains in sub-Saharan Africa at a blockchain workshop in Zurich, arranged by the University of Zurich Blockchain Center and University of Cape Town. This was well received and networks established – innovation and collaboration feed and build upon each other!


That’s all for now. Until the next update, eat your greens!

Julian Kanjere
Founder
https://www.foodprintlabs.com

CBDC in Africa Symposium Invite 2022

Central Bank Digital Currencies in Africa Symposium 2022

Last month, I attended the Central Bank Digital Currencies (CBDCs) in Africa Symposium at the University of Cape Town (UCT) Graduate School of Business (GSB). The event, which was put together by the Algorand-UCT Financial Innovation Hub, comprised of a diverse audience which included central bankers, policy makers, financial technology (FinTech) professionals and academics. The panel discussion had two sessions, the first discussed CBDC projects being carried out by African central banks (notably the Central Bank of Nigeria and the South African Reserve Bank), and the second took a broader view on not just CBDCs but ongoing payments innovation.

What are CBDCs?
CBDCs are an especially hot topic at present, particularly amongst central bankers and the fintech community across the globe. Central Banks are harnessing the technology used in crypto assets to develop CBDCs. But what are CBDCs? CBDCs are a new and digital form of sovereign currency on an alternative and more efficient payment rail – a rail that is typically based on distributed ledger technology (DLT) e.g. blockchain – and not available in cash form. Essentially, CBDCs are akin to traditional fiat currency (footnote – fiat currency is government-issued currency that is not backed by a commodity such as gold.), albeit on a different payment rail. The promise of CBDCs is reduced frictions in financial services and payments e.g. cheaper and faster payments (especially since there is no need for multiple intermediaries between the source of a transaction and its destination – as is currently the case), as well as increased interoperability and programmability (which unlocks innovation) within financial services.

Central Banks and their digital currencies
Nigeria, South Africa and Ghana are some of the African countries that gone beyond research and launched CBDC pilots in one form or another. Nigeria, which is arguably leading the charge, launched the e-Naira project. South Africa launched the project Khoka pilot and recently participated in project Dunbar. Ghana launched the e-Cedi project. Other countries such as Namibia, Zambia and Zimbabwe have hinted at exploring the use of digital currencies, and are presumably in research stage – see the BCG CBDC tracker.

A recurring theme from the discussants was the cautious approach adopted by central banks as CBDCs are unchartered territories that will require amendments to policy and legislation, which they would want to get right. Another topic of discussion was privacy preservation – the need by citizens to maintain a level of transactional privacy (restrict a state’s oversight into an individual’s transactions) – something afforded by cash. The consensus here seems to be affording privacy for small value transactions and providing quasi-privacy or the ability to inspect – on-demand – large value transactions for regulatory purposes.

The first session ended with a thought-provoking question – whether proceeding slowly and cautiously by central banks is of more negative consequence than moving fast and being wrong – food for thought.

Q&A with the panel of central bankers
Q&A with the panel of central bankers

CBDCs and ongoing payments innovation
The second panel discussion zoomed out from CBDCs and considered more general and ongoing payments innovation. Interoperability between payment mechanisms and systems was highlighted as low hanging fruit with potential upside. For example, in the case of South Africa, a number of FinTech payments startups allow scanning of QR codes for payments but are not necessarily interoperable (e.g. Zapper and SnapScan), which would be a plus for merchants and a boost for commerce. Similar to QR Code payment apps, a comment was asked about why loyalty points are operated behind closed silos instead of being opened up and becoming tradeable across different providers and merchants (e.g. FNB eBucks, Standard Bank uCount, Pick n Pay smart shopper points etc). The rapid payments program (RPP) by BankServ Africa was highlighted as an innovation enabling interoperability initiative. The RPP is an interoperable payments platform that will bring together banks and non-bank FinTechs as service providers, and offer easy to use payment options for South African’s.

As in the first session, the theme of regulation reared its head again – with the sentiment being that although regulation moves slower than innovation, it is necessary. But of course overregulation can kill innovation altogether – there is a risk of throwing out the baby with the bath water!

One of the panellist’s took a necessary step back and put across a cornerstone notion that the problem we are trying to solve with CBDCs and payments innovation is not necessarily a problem of a broken past (i.e. present day financial infrastructure is relatively robust and functional) but more of what can we do for the future (from a technology, people and policy perspective) to improve from where we are. Ultimately, the focus should not be the payment rail but what it enables.

Lastly, one of the open questions arising from this session was whether CBDCs and current payments innovation will make a huge dent in solving the problem of financial inclusion – another piece of food for thought.

UCT FinTech grad students and James Wallis (VP of Central Bank Engagements & CBDCs at Ripple)
UCT FinTech grad students and James Wallis (VP of Central Bank Engagements & CBDCs at Ripple)

Summing up the conference, we are experiencing a fundamental shift in payments innovation and infrastructure, but fundamental shifts can be hard to recognise. The benefits of using blockchain as a payment rail are hard to ignore – faster transaction speeds, lower costs and programmability – all of which increase efficiency and participation and unlock innovation. CBDCs promise to be the next evolution of money, and not only central banks but fintech players need to be adaptive, agile and anticipatory.

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Reimagine with Eric Schmidt

Winning the Schmidt Futures Reimagine Challenge 2020

I am excited to share that I have been selected as 1 of the 20 global winners of the Schmidt Futures Reimagine Challenge 2020 challenge. Launched in August 2020, the Reimagine Challenge called on students from across the world to submit innovative solutions to spark global movements for change and build back from COVID-19. Following a rigorous evaluation process, the Reimagine Challenge team went on to select 20 winning submissions, having received 838 submissions from across the world.

Titled  “Using Technology to Elevate the Status of Smallholder Farmers and Amplify their Contribution Towards Achieving Food Security“, my submission was based on the FoodPrint Farmer platform – a blockchain-enabled platform for digitising smallholder farmer operations that I am currently building. FoodPrint was birthed whilst exploring use cases of blockchain technology in the MPhil in FinTech degree at the University of Cape Town (UCT). You can read my submission in the Reimagine Challenge Anthology which can be downloaded from here.

What it means to be named a winner

It is humbling to be named a winner in a global competition. It underscores the relevance of emerging technology in solving challenges faced in emerging economies, as well as the potential of novel data-driven business models going forward.

Being named a winner also reminds me of a quote from Brian Tracey that I try to live by – “I’ve found that luck is quite predictable. If you want more luck, take more chances. Be more active. Show up more often.”

Relevance of such challenges for students around the globe, and especially African students

Challenges such as the Reimagine Challenge provide an opportunity for students to exercise creativity outside of the traditional academic setting, validate ideas on the global stage and accrue some innovation capital. For African students in particular, they additionally provide an opportunity to not only build diverse international networks but also demonstrate the ability to compete and contribute on the global stage! It is especially encouraging to note that 4 of the 20 winning submissions are from the UCT.

What comes next

In the words of Mark Zuckerberg, ideas do not come out fully formed. There is further prototyping and piloting required before realising product-market fit for the FoodPrint Farmer platform. Outside of building FoodPrint, I am proceeding with further research and engagements on Blockchain Technology and Data Privacy, as well as technology mentorship in South Africa.

Keep Moving Forward.

Julz

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Footnotes
  1. Schmidt Futures is a philanthropic initiative by Eric and Wendy Schmidt. Eric Schmidt was the CEO of Google from 2001 to 2011.
  2. For the Reimagine Challenge 2020, Schmidt Futures received 838 submissions from students enrolled in 264 schools in 40 different countries, representing 86 nationalities and speaking 53 primary languages.
  3. Shout out to everyone who has played a part in shaping the FoodPrint idea. This includes A/Prof Co-Pierre Georg, Oranjezicht City Farm MarketUCT MPhil FinTech class of 2019, UCT GSB’s Solution Space and the Oribi Village team.
  4. Links to official announcement and press coverage:
COVID19ZIM Aggregator

COVID19ZIM Aggregator

It is incredibly difficult to keep up with news about Coronavirus (COVID-19) – the infectious disease that currently has no vaccine and has taken the world at large by surprise. Nationwide curfews and lock-downs have become the order of the day.

Whilst the world has been battling to contain COVID-19, misleading news about it has also been spreading rapidly – especially on social media platforms, which does not help the situation. This is often exacerbated by the fact that it can also be difficult to find locally relevant information aggregated in a central place.

To this end, I have created Covid19Zim Aggregator – an online application that I hope can be a useful tool for accessing centralised, easy to understand, relevant and actionable information about COVID19 in Zimbabwe. This information includes statistics, emergency contact details and service provider details. The statistics are gathered from sources such as the Ministry of Health and Child Care (MoHCC) in Zimbabwe and the World Health Organisation (WHO). Covid19Zim Aggregator is mobile friendly – it is accessible, optimised and fully functional from a cellphone.

Features of Covid19Zim Aggregator include:

  • Statistics about COVID-19 in Zimbabwe (as reported by MoHCC)
  • Contact details for the hotlines setup by MoHCC. One can call the hotline by simply clicking on the contact number whilst viewing the Covid19Zim Aggregator on their cellphone
  • Twitter link for MoHCC
  • WhatsApp link for MoHCC. One can WhatsApp the  MoHCC by simply clicking on the WhatsApp link whilst viewing the Covid19Zim Aggregator on their cellphone
  • Health Tips
  • Mobile Friendly (accessible from a cellphone)

Features coming soon:

  • Service Providers and their contact details (e.g. hospitals)

You can access Covid19Zim Aggregator here – https://covid19zim.herokuapp.com

#FlattenTheCurve #StayHomeSaveLives #Covid19Zim #TellAZimbabwean

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Footnotes
  1. Covid19Zim Aggregator is an independent and unofficial web application.
  2. Comments section is at the end of the page.
  3. This project has officially been archived as of 18 Feb 2021.
No man's land between South Africa and Namibia (Vioolsdrift Border Control)

Exploring the Land of the Brave, Namibia

After recently road tripping across Namibia with some friends, I would best describe it as a country with endless stretches of road, an abundance of adventure activities, stunning landscapes and most importantly, friendly nationals who take great pride in the quality of Namibian beer, meat and biltong!

Our road trip took us across four provinces in Namibia – Karas Region (Keetmanshoop), Hardap Region (Mariental), Khomas Region (Windhoek) and Erongo Region (Swakopmund and Walvis Bay). Although we trekked across early July, which is mid-winter season, the day time temperatures consistently ranged in the mid-twenties, much to our delight. Below are some of the pictures from the roadtrip, enjoy.

 

Atlantic Ocean and Namib Desert separated by a road (Swakopmund)
Atlantic Ocean and Namib Desert separated by a road (Swakopmund)

 

Jetty Restaurant, Swakopmund
Jetty Restaurant, Swakopmund

 

Christus Kirche, Windhoek's best known landmark
Christus Kirche, Windhoek’s best known landmark

 

Sunset enroute to Windhoek
Sunset enroute to Windhoek

 

Quad biking in the Namib Desert, Swakopmund
Quad biking in the Namib Desert, Swakopmund

 

Exploring the Namib Desert, Swakopmund
Exploring the Namib Desert, Swakopmund

 

At the top of Dune 7, Walvis Bay
At the top of Dune 7, Walvis Bay

 

No man's land between South Africa and Namibia (Vioolsdrift Border Control)
No man’s land between South Africa and Namibia (Vioolsdrift Border Control)

 

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Footnotes
  1. Comments section is at the end of the page.
Financial Services Fight Night 2019

Lessons from Boxing (Financial Services Fight Night 2019)

Last month (February 2019), I attended the 8th annual Financial Services Fight Night (FSFN) in Cape Town together with one of my good friends. We were supporting a colleague of mine who was one of the many contestants taking part in the series of fights over the course of the evening. FSFN is a fundraising event put together by The Armoury Boxing club with sponsorship from Financial Services companies – the likes of FIS, Sygnia and Investec.

The fights were largely in good spirit, even though some of the contestants threw serious blows at each other – as if to settle a long standing vendetta, much to the pleasure of the jeering crowd. In fact, I am sure that those who were watching right up from the ring side not only got front row action but the occasional blood splatter as well! This, coupled with the giving-back nature of the event (as proceeds are donated to a local charity) made for a thoroughly entertaining and worthwhile evening. Whilst driving back home, my friend and I shared how great an initiative the FSFN is, as well as the handful of everyday life takeaways one could draw from the event, these are listed below.

 

1. Do not let your ‘perceived’ disadvantage hold you back.

It was clear that height, if well utilized, was an advantage for the taller boxers. However, it was not an automatic ticket to victory. In many fights, a lot of the boxers held their own even when they were not as tall as their opponents. So much so that they resulting contests were evenly balanced.

 

2. Sharpen your axe.

One of the famous quotes credited to Abraham Lincoln is “Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.” This speaks to the indispensable value of preparation. Maybe preparation can even be considered along the same ranks as force multipliers. It readies and greatly enables one for opportunity should it come their way. Chatting with my colleague in the run up to his fight, he mentioned how he had been rigorously practicing for close to four months for the fight night. This involved a strict diet and physical exercise. Suffice to say, after watching him in the boxing ring, it was clear that he had sharpened his axe.

 

3. Fight till the very end.

By the time the final round for each fight arrived, the fighters were clearly physically spent. That said, they hung in there and tried to muster all the remaining energy they had left until the final bell sounded, signalling the end of the fight. In the words of Martin Luther King Jr – “If you can’t fly, then run. If you can’t run, then walk. If you can’t walk, then crawl. but whatever you do, you have to keep moving forward.” Fight till the very end.

 

4. You do not have to always understand why people do what they do.

This is really a note-to-self. I spent the better part of the FSFN trying to figure out why someone would willingly volunteer to put their body on the line, receive blows and exert themselves to the point of absolute exhaustion at the end of their designated fight. Whilst I would generally opt for a non-contact sport like tennis, this was a reminder that people are unique, different and diverse. At the end of the day, embracing our differences can often make us stronger.

 

5. No man is an island.

Over 600 spectators attended the event to show support for their colleagues on the day. This speaks to the value of community whether in a corporate setting or social setting. Put simply, this was a subtle reminder that no man is an island and in the words of Phil Dooley, we are better together.

 

Big shout out to all the fighters on the night, working hard, displaying incredible sportsmanship and of-course, supporting a good cause.

 

Remember to put your best foot forward, everyday!

Julz

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Footnotes
  1. This is not a sponsored post.
  2. The featured image for this blog post was taken on the evening of FSFN 2019 at The Carraway, Mutual Heights Building.
  3. The charity supported this year was Shine Literacy. Shine Literacy offers literacy support programmes in primary schools across South Africa.
  4. The volunteer boxers/contestants also work within Financial Services.
  5. Comments section is at the end of the page.
fireworks

New Year, New Me – 49 Questions to Improve Your Results

New Year, New Me! Can you believe we are already near the end of the first month of the new year? I am sure you have had your fair share of hearing the phrase “New Year, New Me” being tossed around within your circles or maybe you have been the one using it. In fact, if I am to be completely honest, I am guilty of using the phrase at every opportunity I have had over the last few weeks – especially since I have been consistently playing tennis every weekend this month. However, often times, the “New Year, New Me” wave sadly dies out almost as fast as the the December holidays become a distant memory. Why? Could it be that “New Year, New Me” is based on a fallacy that the turn of the year year automatically ushers in a new self, which eventually proves to be untrue?

When I was a pre-schooler, I remember my old man telling me that every year, at the point of crossing over into a new year, the sky would flip over. I believed him. Sadly, back then, I was scared of fireworks displays meaning that I always missed out on the New Years eve spectacle. By the time I would have mustered enough courage to step outside of the house and look up to the sky (typically fifteen minutes into the New Year), my dad would say that I had just missed the sight of the sky flipping over. Fast-forward a couple of years, I eventually figured that the story of the sky turning was one of the many stories that he had made up, as many parents presumably do. However, looking back at the story, I realise that the flip of the sky is analogous to the turn of the year. At the turn of a year, there is a general sense of anticipation. Anticipation at what the year holds. A new year ushers in renewed hope. This is evidenced by changes such as spikes in gym attendance and new member registrations, as well as increased church attendance among others. A bit closer to home, one of my work colleagues has suddenly (or should I say ambitiously) decided to switch to a six month no meat diet since the start of this year – kudos to them whilst it lasts.

Earlier, I mentioned that the “New Year, New Me” gusto starts to wane over time. Come February and then March, time reveals those who have stayed the course, when the wheat has been separated from the chaff. It would perhaps seem like I am taking a pessimistic view of “New Year, New Me”. Not necessarily. After all, I am one of them. What I am trying to do is figure out how to stay on course with the New Me – to be counted among the tough that get going, when the going gets tough.  This leads to my inspiration for this blog post. During the December holidays, I finished reading The Personal MBA by Josh Kaufman. The book has various ideas and principles on business, life and work. One of the chapters in the book, 49 Questions to Improve Your Results has a series of questions ranging from productivity to fear to happiness . What if by asking these questions, at the start of this New Year, one can set the wheels in motion for a sustainable “New Me” in the long run? Whether you are one who subscribes to “New Year, New Me” or not, I am convinced that these questions will at the least prompt some beneficial reflection see below.
Do I use my body optimally?

  • What is the quality of my current diet?
  • Do I get enough sleep?
  • Am I managing my energy well each day?
  • How do I manage daily stress?
  • Do I have good posture and poise?
  • What can I do to improve my ability to observe the world around me?

Do I know what I want?

  • What achievements would make me really excited?
  • What “states of being” do I want to experience each day?
  • Are my priorities and values clearly defined?
  • Am I capable of making decisions quickly and confidently?
  • Do I consistently focus my attention on what I want vs. what I don’t want?

What am I afraid of?

  • Have I created an honest and complete list of the fears I’m holding on to?
  • Have I confronted each fear to imagine how I would handle it if it came to pass?
  • Am I capable of recognizing and correcting self-limitation?
  • Am I appropriately pushing my own limits?

Is my mind clear and focused?

  • Do I systematically externalize (write or record) what I think about?
  • Am I making it easy to capture my thoughts quickly, as I have them?
  • What has my attention right now?
  • Am I regularly asking myself appropriate guiding questions?
  • Do I spend most of my time focusing on a single task, or constantly flipping between multiple tasks?
  • Do I spend enough time actively reflecting on my goals, projects, and progress?

Am I confident, relaxed, and productive?

  • Have I found a planning method that works for me?
  • Am I “just organized enough”?
  • Do I have an up-to-date list of my projects and active tasks?
  • Do I review all of my commitments on a regular basis?
  • Do I take regular, genuine breaks from my work?
  • Am I consciously creating positive habits?
  • Am I working to shed non-productive habits?
  • Am I comfortable with telling other people “no”?

How do I perform best?

  • What do I particularly enjoy?
  • What am I particularly good at doing?
  • What environment do I find most conducive to doing good work?
  • How do I tend to learn most effectively?
  • How do I prefer to work with and communicate with others?
  • What is currently holding me back?

What do I really need to be happy and fulfilled?

  • How am I currently defining “success”?
  • Is there another way of defining “success” that I may find more fulfilling?
  • How often do I compare myself to my perceptions of other people?
  • Am I currently living below my means?
  • If I could only own 100 things, what would they be?
  • Am I capable of separating necessity and luxury?
  • What do I feel grateful for in my life and work?

 

Since the turn of the year was not too long ago, I hope these questions cause a turn in how the rest of the year goes. A turn for the better – a sustainable “New Me”. Of course these questions alone will not necessarily result in a change, they need to be accompanied by corresponding actions with a long term view! So, do I think that “New Year, New Me” is based on a fallacy that the turn of the year year automatically ushers in a new self? I think so, but I do not know for sure. What I do know for sure is that as the year progresses,  I hope I will still be a regular at the tennis courts.

All the best for 2019 and remember to put your best foot forward, everyday!

Julz

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Footnotes
  1. Original source for 49 Questions to Improve Your Results can be found here.
  2. The featured image for this blog post is from the captivating fireworks display at the V & A Waterfront during the 2019 New Year’s celebration.