What I’ve Learned In 2019 - Brandon Fong

What I’ve Learned In 2019

By Brandon Fong | Self-Improvement

What I’ve Learned in 2019

As we close out this year, I took the time to reflect on my biggest takeaways for 2019...

... and I want to share them with you.

In this article, you will learn:

  • The top 6 habits I implemented this year that changed the game for me
  • The top 5 books I read this year (out of the 30 I read)
  • My "Focus Formula" I implemented that put my productivity on rocket fuel

I hope you find them useful and maybe will consider implementing some of my top takeaways for 2020 and beyond!

1) Habits Always Win

I made it a priority this year to establish some incredible habits that have made a HUGE impact on my overall happiness, productivity, and health.

I’d highly recommend implementing these in your life for 2020 and beyond if you haven’t already:


This year, I can proudly say that I’ve probably snoozed less than 20 days out of the entire year — most of them being weekends.

As I wrote about in my article about doing hard shit, I believe that snoozing sets your day off on the wrong foot. It’s the FIRST decision you get to make.

Your FIRST opportunity to do what you said you were going to do. And most people cave in and let the snooze button win.

It wasn’t easy, but now that I’ve conquered the snooze button, I feel like a new man!


I decided to start journaling for two reasons:

  1. To become a historian of my life
  2. To gain clarity on my thinking

For a long time now, I’ve known just how important it is to reflect and learn from your past. But if you’re not recording your accomplishments and actions through the day, how can you do that?

Because of that, I do two types of journaling:

  1. On my computer, I write down my accomplishments and actions.
  2. In the morning, I have a physical journal where I write free hand — mostly to ask myself questions and process my thoughts.

Now because I’ve journaled, I can go back and reflect on my weeks, months, quarters, and entire year.

This helps me to see how far I’ve come, and allows me to course correct moving forward.

Working Out 4x a Week

This was actually a habit continuation from 2018 — I made it a non-negotiable to prioritize my health by going to the gym 4x a week.

I’ve found that when I prioritize going to the gym, it does several things:

  1. Improves my sleep quality
  2. Makes me naturally want to eat healthier
  3. Boosts my mood

Game changer!

Drinking a Shit Ton of Water

I’ve known for a long time how important it is to stay hydrated, but never did it.

Drinking more water...

  1. Gives you more energy
  2. Reduces headaches
  3. Delivers oxygen throughout your body
  4. Cleanses your body
  5. Maintain healthy blood pressure

... and much more.

This year I started drinking a lot more water, partially because I invested in a Berkey water filter.

The fact is that our municipal water supplies are not the best...

They have a ton of nasty stuff that you don’t want in your body.

I did a bunch of research and it turns out that the Berkey is not only the best at filtering water, but it’s also the most cost effective.

It’s an upfront investment ($~250) but the filters only need to be replaced once a year compared to other filters that do a worse job and need to be replaced every other month.

Not sure if it’s placebo, but I think the water tastes much better and I drink at least 84 ounces of water per day now.

Goal Setting & Planning

I believe that in order to focus, you need to have clear outcomes outlined.

In 2019, I established a habit of setting clear goals, and making sure that I planned weekly and daily to accomplish those outcomes.


I’ve never been able to keep a consistent accountability partner until this year.

Every week, we text each other our objectives for the coming week, and we get on a call once a month to check in.

Note that these habits took this entire year to build up and consistently execute. It wasn’t easy, but it was worth it!

2) Minimalism Changes Everything

This year, I devoted a lot more time to practicing minimalism.

If you aren’t familiar, minimalism is really just about only owning things that bring you joy, and focusing your energy on what’s truly important — your health, relationships, and growth.

I was out of the country for 8 months this year and all I had was a backpack and a small carry on. 

3) How To Establish A Sound Financial Future

Actually starting in 2018, I began establishing my own personal finance plan.

I’m proud to say that in 2019, I FINALLY got my system to where I want it to be.

Here’s the gist of it:

  • Because I live minimally, I save/invest 54.86% of my income (lol yes 54.86% exactly)
  • Each month, I’ve set up a system to automatically...
    1. Put money away into sub savings accounts (wedding, car, down payment on house, emergency fund)
    2. Invest in my 401(k) and my Roth IRA

Because of this system, I’m blessed to say that I was able to pay off a brand new car in 3 months, and pay for my fiancée’s engagement ring essentially in cash.

If you don’t have a personal finance system set up already, I highly suggest reading the book I Will Teach You To Be Rich by Ramit Sethi. It’ll legit change your life.

4) Top 5 Books Of 2019

Here are all the books I read in 2019:

Non Fiction

  1. Turning The Flywheel by Jim Collins
  2. The Obstacle Is The Way by Ryan Holiday
  3. Can’t Hurt Me by David Goggins
  4. The Untethered Soul by Michael A. Singer
  5. Dreams of Awakening by Charlie Morley
  6. Essentialism by Greg McGowen
  7. The Alter Ego Effect by Todd Herman
  8. Surely You’re Joking, Mr. Feynman by Richard Feynman
  9. Sapiens by Yuval Noah Harari
  10. I Will Teach You To Be Rich (Second Edition) by Ramit Sethi
  11. The 12 Week Year by Bryan Moran
  12. Bird by Bird by Anne Lamotte
  13. The Ultimate Jim Rohn Library (Audible)
  14. Never Split The Difference by Chris Voss
  15. Minimalism by Joshua Fields Milburn and Ryan Nicodemus
  16. Indistractible by Nir Eyal
  17. The Miracle Equation by Hal Elrod
  18. The Simple Path to Wealth by JL Collins
  19. The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo
  20. Reinventing Your Life by Janet S. Klosko and Jeffrey Young
  21. Atomic Habits by James Clear
  22. Launch by Jeff Walker
  23. The One Thing by Gary Keller


  1. Son by Lois Lowry
  2. The Martian by Andy Weir
  3. Legend by Marie Lu
  4. Prodigy by Marie Lu
  5. Champion by Marie Lu
  6. Beat The Reaper by Josh Bazell
  7. Exhalation by Ted Chiang

Of all of those, here are the top 5 that had the biggest impact on me in no particular order:

Never Split The Difference by Chris Voss

This book is hands down one of the most useful books I’ve ever read. I listened to it first on Audible but it was so good that I also bought the Kindle version afterwards.

If you want to learn how to negotiate 100x better than you currently do to help you save money and come out on top in more situations, study this book like your life depends on it.

Atomic Habits by James Clear

I’ve read a few books on habits, including The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg which is considered to be the book on habits.

I think Atomic Habits was better.

If you want to learn how you can leverage habits to help you accomplish your goals, this book is for you. It’s incredibly actionable and it’s helped me a lot this year to form the strong habits I mentioned above.

The Untethered Soul by Michael A. Singer

Last year, I read the book The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle which is also considered to be one of the top books in the spirituality space.

Both The Power of Now and The Untethered Soul will help you to live in the moment and quiet the voice that’s constantly running in your head. These books completely changed my perspective on time and my thoughts on spirituality.

In my opinion, The Untethered Soul was written in a much more relatable way than The Power Of Now. Both are good, but if you want to get started on this topic I’d recommend The Untethered Soul first.

Can’t Hurt Me
by David Goggins

This book was insane. I haven’t read that many autobiographies, but after listening to David’s episode on the Joe Rogan Experience I immediately bought this book.

David Goggins is a badass motherfucker.

I wrote an article at length about how this book inspired me here. But here’s the summary:

If you ever feel like complaining about your life, this book takes away many of your excuses. Personally it reframed what I believed to be possible for one human being to do, and inspires me to push beyond the limits my brain puts on things.

I highly recommend the audiobook over the actual book because it has some extra stuff that isn’t in the paper copy.

The 12 Week Year by Brian Moran

I read this book in November 2019 but I’m putting it in the top 5.

I’d say that 80% of the book wasn’t really groundbreaking for me because I’ve heard of many of the concepts discussed...

... but the 20% I got out of it has been instrumental in my productivity and momentum as 2020 approaches.

If you’re looking to accomplish more in 12 weeks than most people do in 12 months, check this book out.

5) My Focus Formula

Since 2014, I’ve gone through many different iterations of my “focus formula”.

But I’ve truly felt that this year, I reached an entirely new level on my focus game. This system will continue to evolve, but here it is in a nutshell:

1. Remove ALL distractions. See my top suggestions for making your phone and computer less distracting in this article.

2. Set a clear “moonshot” goal. Use The One Thing by Gary Keller as a resource.

3. Use the 12 Week Year process to map out a 12 week action plan to get closer to your moonshot goal.

4. Focus on executing 85% or higher on your tasks outlined in the 12 Week Year plan.

5. Track everything that you do using some kind of a dashboard (mine’s on Google Sheets — see below).

6. Use the dashboard to journal and reflect on your days, weeks, and months.

7. Use morning journaling to clear your thoughts and come up with powerful ideas to move you forward.

8. Plan your day ahead of time.

9. Go to bed early, and use morning time to knock out your most important goals to give yourself momentum in the day.

This process has helped me to get SO much done, you have no idea.

I’d like to create a mini course that walks through this process for people to use — so be on the lookout for that in 2020.


There are MANY more takeaways that I’ve gotten from 2019 which have helped me to grow beyond what I thought was possible.

I’ve kept this list to the items that I think are most applicable to my audience in the hope that they’ll inspire you to pursue some of these concepts if you haven’t already.

If you want to make sure you don't miss out on killer new content throughout the year, make sure to subscribe below!!