3 key databases of my life system
Civilisation is really about systems. A set of structures and traditions that are closely related enough that we see them forming a coherent whole. I deeply believe that systems are why countries succeed, companies expand and people grow.
I’m grateful to finally have a weekend of peace and quiet, to go back to my routine in Singapore, spend a couple of hours browsing the library and indulging in a few books. I have been on the road yet again in November, and it took time away from my hobby of indulging in ancient empires.
In the process of reading and learning about the ancient world, as well as linking them to lessons for building my empire of companies and how I live my life, I noticed one pattern that sticks out: systems. Good systems.
What are good systems
Motivation is a load of crap. Systems are the reason why things are done. It is part of routines and baby steps towards getting an end goal. Banking of motivation to get an output is not reliable because some days you simply feel like shit. But systems on the other hand, are the routines you have, the structure of doing the work even when you don’t feel like doing. It is also the documentation of the how to, the past, which helps us to reflect, change and improve as we approach the future.
I saw many similarities in the rise and fall of ancient civilisations, the “winners” and “losers” of the ancient world, and how companies grew and expanded. I knew good systems was going to be the key to success. Then hire the best people and viola. Magic happens.
Today, I want to share about my life system. People always say not to share that with people because it is weird. But I am weird and I embrace that.
I’ve been building my life system since I was 15, and this output is a collection of trial and errors.
The reason why I am obsessed with Notion is because Notion is a database. And systems are linked databases with context and documentation. Notion is exactly that and thus, my systems are all in Notion.
3 key databases that run my personal life
Stories to be told
I have way more databases in my life like:
Daily weather inside of me
Annual notes to future self
Tools and Advice from other people
Ask better questions
As you can imagine, the systems in my life are “tests and trials” before I roll them out to the companies. The companies also have similar systems, which I think is important.
Stories to be told
I write about my life adventures, stories to be shared publicly, lessons learnt and private stories. A life worth living is a life worth telling.
My life isn’t all smooth sailing. And that is okay and completely normal. That being said, I document all the ups and downs.
Documentation helps me with my quarterly and annual reflections
It helps me to see my growth
It helps me to observe patterns and cycles. Like burn out cycles, heartbreaks, feeling lost and not good enough
And of course, I document my life stories where I live out my principles, because I believe in living my example than talking. Talk is cheap, and I don’t like that.
I document the milestones in my life, be it personal, professional or social. I don’t have social media, but I keep them in a private database about my life. And they are linked to the stories to be told.
They are also linked to experience badges. Life is like a video game, and you collect experience points. It is not about the experience itself or experience points to hang on my personal “wall of fame”, but to experience everything in life at least once. Life can be so beautiful and magical when we know how to do it right. There are 8 billion people in the world, almost 200 countries and territories, and endless experiences waiting to be explored.
I live life with a curiosity, except when I’m stressed and burnt out from work. I believe the childlike fascination of looking at the wonders of the world makes the world so much more beautiful. There are so many strangers yet to become friends, stories waiting to be told, and the lessons to be shared of inner strength to overcome inner challenges.
Of course, I also document the downs of my life. I always document them as lessons learnt from the down episodes of my life. Down times like quarter life crisis, moments of doubt, and vulnerabilities in general. It is through the vulnerabilities do I embrace my strength that made me who I am today.
These are principles I’ve been collecting for decades. It’s the reminders and values I embrace as an individual. If everything I’ve built is lost, at least I have my principles who make me who I am.
Life principles are divided into 30 categories. They could be quotes, advice or general principles aligned with my values:
Build for the future
The world will not remember I existed, but it has been forever altered because I did.
Always remember to love — life, people, myself
Values are directions of how I live my life. Principles are the actions, reminders or “how to” to get there. And sometimes, we forget, and that is okay. I re-read my principles at least once a month.
Today, I run 2 companies, where I am the solo founder. I bootstrapped both. (Why bootstrapping? It’s in another story — leverage.) My teams are in 4 continents. And I live a healthy social life, good family relationship and content personal life. I have a happy balance of work and life in the macro scale (I overwork some weeks, I underwork others). Being from a happy family and childhood definitely helps, of course, and growing up in a first world country like Singapore is a true privilege.
All being said and done, it’s not possible to be here without the systems I have in place. The systems that run my life, the routines that drivers the outcome even on days that I don’t feel good, the principles that made me who I am. It is surely a pain to upkeep the system and follow it, but I feel like I’ve lived 3 lifetimes so far, with the experiences I’ve had in my life.