A Fool's Reflection on Hearth and Mastery

2020-04-13 · Cultivation >> word

What is A Fool’s Reflection?

This year I had chosen “Hearth” as my Word for 2020 (read more about it here.) It is recommended that one conducts A Fool’s Reflection around April 1st, as an arbitrarily-timed check-in for one adherence to the herald set forth. So like what a lot of habit-building books advise, reviewing one’s actions after ~3 months and adjust as necessary.

How’s embodying a “Hearth” going so far in 2020?

I sometimes wonder if I had subconsciously anticipated a lot of this year’s dramatic happenings, and chose to focus on providing stability and community as a result.


  • Safety: Welp, what fiery grounds we find ourselves! I am taking this day-by-day, but I find that my ability to let go in this regard has increased this year despite comically harrowing circumstances.
  • Space: Through the powers of Zoom, Discord, and other digital hearths, I find that physical distancing has brought about more social connectedness in new ways.
  • Substantiate: So far, I have shared more of myself than I ever have online.


  • Be curious: Developing internal games for tedious tasks have helped to get things done.
  • Be companionable: I have reached out to people that I daren’t not before. It got easier.
  • Be cumulative: I would like to do a better job gathering the bits and pieces of digital kindling (i.e. creative projects) together on this site.


  • Channel the energy of Andrew Yang in my vocational pursuits: if anything, I’m going to have the most fun! I still need to frequently remind myself of this aspiration, but I did manage to pull it off in several hard occasions.
  • Continue to build micro-communities through meditation, listening, and helping others connect. Yes, I am doing so now.
  • Put up more writing online: treat this website as my fridge door, not my magnum opus. I wrote something roughly once a month here. With minimal editing.

So overall, yes, yes, and yes! I am quite pleased with my adherence to my word, and hope to take it further in the coming months.

What about 2019?

In 2019, I had chosen the word “Mastery,” though this was before I was aware of Dr. Jason Fox’s advice on the pitfalls of such a word. (He explains it much more eloquently than I do, but in essence, these aspirational lofty words tend to be harder to embody, especially with visual imagery.) I had chosen “Mastery” at the time because I find myself admiring those who continue to hone their craft and become the foremost expert. For example, I frequently re-watch this video featuring a day in the life of Chef Nozumu Abe from Sushi Noz. This is because his dedication to every sensory input related to the dining experience ignites how I feel I should conduct my life. (Where this sense comes from, isn’t as clear–I suspect it’s actually because the Hong Kong TV channels I grew up watching often showed clips about Japan’s craftspeople!)

I then set out to divide Mastery into 5 categories:

  • Cultivation: all concerns with liberation of the mind, and on a meta-level, adherence to this system
  • Connection: friends and family
  • Constitution: physical health
  • Creativity: work and projects
  • Currency: finances

All to say, similar to Benjamin Franklin’s system of 13 virtues. I reduced it to 5 items for myself because we have five fingers on each hand. Yup, that’s the arbitrary reason. It also seemed to cover the revolving 5 aspects of my life I tend to think about anyway.

Each month I had set out a goal or two related to each category, and reviewed at the end of each month whether I had met them or not. If I didn’t, then I would set a goal that is 50% easier, until I can meet the goal. (I had learned this tip from Break The Twitch.) In a future entries I’ll share more details about this process–turns out I have a lot of notes to go through!

Integrating the past, the present, and the future

While I feel I am stoking the fire quite well with “Hearth,” I find that having some sort of mental organization is still helpful for me to make sure that I lead a life of composure, both to avoid burning the candle at both ends, and accidentally extinguishing efforts due to neglect. Hence, I have returned to using the 5 categories (e.g. on this site), while still keeping “Hearth” in mind as a beacon. I ultimately realized that having just mastery/5 categories did not feel satisfying because they are un-maximizable attributes that can go on forever and ever. Having a Word such as “Hearth” remedies this issue by providing a mental model that is flexible yet tangible (and one might even dare say, meaningful!)