So recently, something exciting happened: I did my very first podcast!!

Stev Yong, former IT manager turned financial consultant, invited me to speak about www.cookwithipohbunny.com on My Personal Finances, the award-winning financial education education platform he founded.

What has personal finances got to do with a food website?

Personally, the MCO forced me to confront my future as a writer, evaluate my lifestyle and financial management choices – and started me on my journey with my passion project.

Here are the most powerful money – and life – lessons I learned during 2020.

1. Be honest with yourself – it is liberating!

2020 was supposed to be a banner year for me. Just before the MCO, I had signed a major contract with an education group that ensured steady returns for the rest of the year.

Or so I thought. With COVID19, every email that came in seemed to bear bad news of assignments being postponed or cancelled. By the time MCO kicked in, my calendar was virtually empty. I was terrified. Ego kept me from admitting this to anyone, not even myself. I kept telling myself that the feelings would go away but I was just in denial.

Then one day, I got into a heart-to-heart conversation with a good friend and I found myself sharing my fears. I felt so incredibly liberated after unloading to her. From that encouraging start, I began to open up to other friends about my struggles. None of them laughed at me, or respected me any less. If anything, they seemed to be even more supportive of my efforts to make a fresh start during COVID19. That’s when I realized that I should have more faith in people, and worry less about being judged.

Simon Sinek put it very well: “True strength is the courage to admit weakness.”

2. Have faith in people

Not everyone stays at a peak or high all the time. Even if we hit rock bottom, it doesn’t mean we have to stay there forever – as long as we are willing to ask for help.

While I bought the website in December 2019, I only seriously started working on it when MCO came along. Alas, I quickly found myself stuck in a rut because I lacked the technical know how to implement the features I wanted. My first instinct was to hire someone, but – call me kiamsiap – the professional fees were beyond what I was willing to pay for a passion project.

Out of desperation, I posted an appeal for help on Facebook. To my astonishment, people I’d never met responded and offered assistance. Suggestions ranged from Fiverr to contacts for WordPress experts. Finally, a Facebook friend I’ve never met before came all the way from the other side of town and sat down with me for 3 hours coaching me on WordPress essentials (This was already RMCO).

MCO restored my faith in humankind, as cheesy as it sounds.

3. Never stop learning

My biggest wake-up call of 2020 was realizing the importance of lifelong learning. For a long time, I have not bothered to pursue any self-improvement course or pick up new skills. This despite the fact that all the entrepreneurs I had interviewed recently said the same thing: they’ve never stopped investing in skills upgrade and personal development courses no matter how successful they become.

It took MCO to wake me up and drive home just how much I’d stagnated. I enrolled in a slew of internet courses, signed up for webinars every other day, and pushed myself to experiment with activities that I’d never consider in the past (such as doing a podcast haha!)

I learned more in the last three months than I did in the last ten years. And it feels good. Even if I’m not as competitive as the twentysomethings out there, I’m definitely better off than I was three months ago.

4. Have a helicopter view of your financial health

Lord knows I hate doing accounts, but from time to time, I force myself to take stock of my assets and debts. Once I have the numbers, it’s easier to figure out what short-term action I should take to improve my financial standing – whether it’s to save more, cut down on luxuries, or finally go on that holiday to recharge, hooray!

When you have a holistic long-term view of your financial health, you can go about making your financial plans and achieving your life goals more effectively. Of course, when a crisis situation COVID19 hits, you will still need to make adjustments, but they will not be as painful as being caught off-guard with no contingency plan. Short term corrective measures minimise long-term pain.

5. Be brave to break out of your comfort zone!

A crisis is the perfect time to break out of your comfort zone. If a tactic doesn’t work, change it up. Test new ideas. Pivot. While the pandemic killed a lot of new businesses, it also gave some new life. I saw so many business owners who demonstrated indomitable spirit in the face of all the new uncertainties and challenges brought by COVID19. That’s what inspired me to expand this website from being a recipe aggregator to a collection of real-life stories about unsung heroes.

From Sonny Tzan, who went on a creative bender to draw new customers (including making a super funny Doraemon video!), to Sam Lau, who bravely closed his cafe and began a new business model, they were the epitome of the Avengers’ rallying cry: do whatever it takes to survive.

6. Look after your health

Take care of your health financially, spiritually, mentally, emotionally and physically. Each component affects the other. If you have no money,  how can you achieve mental or physical health? You’ll be constantly stressed all the time! The key is to attain a balance of all these elements.

But health isn’t just about the individual. A simple way of illustrating this: while I cooked a lot more during COVID19 to save money, I also ordered takeout and delivery from my neighbourhood cafes regularly to support local businesses.

No man is an island. In order to live well, we are all dependent on different pillars of our community in one way or another. We need our clinics to remain open, our supermarkets to dependably supply us with groceries, our neighbourhood cafes to take over cooking duties when we’re exhausted for the day. Building a healthy circular economy is essential to keep a community alive and thriving.

I’m explaining it very simplistically, but I hope you get my point.

Lastly, thank you to Stev Yong and Catherine Tan for the opportunity, and for being so professional, patient and organised throughout the process. I’m so glad that my first podcast was with you!

Watch the podcast here: