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  • Writer's pictureMichael Chen

Hello 2024! My Word For The Year Is...

Updated: Jan 21

My word for the year : "Legacy".

I like the exercise of picking a 'word for the year'. I first saw my friend, Jon Chew do it years ago. I normally don't share my 'word for the year' and I keep it to myself. Hasn't really worked out for me. So I'm going to try putting it out to the universe this time. Let's see if it sticks.

2022 kicked my ass. 2023 did the same damn thing. And 2024 is starting out rough too.

The past few years have been some of the most exciting times in my life but also the most challenging. Mostly due to elements in life that are completely out of my control.

Good things happened when I took control of the reigns. On a personal level, becoming a father to two beautiful girls and applying myself towards being a better husband, partner and friend to the love of my life : my wife has been an extreme pleasure. At the same time, when shit happens, the stakes are much higher which have resulted in epic arguments.

On a career perspective, as CEO of Iron Hill Media : 2022 saw the release of an 8x episode premium murder mystery series, "Murder By Moonlight" that I helped bring to life as an EP.

Wrapped a shoot of the first Iron Hill Media movie, a coming of age / horror film, "Geng Kubur" written and directed by Gavin Yap. Been working on this since the wrap : securing distribution, a marketing partner and figuring out how to get this out into the world (25 Apr 2024 : Stay tuned!) so that everyone can watch it has been a monumental task for me.

In 2023, I travelled to Annecy Animation Film Festival in France to represent another Gavin Yap creation, "Happy Survivors Club". It was a tremendous and surreal experience being there.

All of the above have happened because I took agency and control. Applied for grants. Put in the time and reaped the rewards even though it all felt like long-shots.

And surprisingly, I've done a lot more acting in 2023 than I thought possible. Having featured roles in VIU's W : Two Worlds and *yet to be released Headliners by Astro Shaw.

But for all of the highlights above, I still feel like I'm struggling. Mostly because, what do I have to show for it?

On a personal level, the objective to be best husband and father I can be will be a fight I will keep fighting till my last breath on this earth.

From a career perspective, 2023 was a dry year. I didn't manage to get any new projects off the ground. Nobody blames me. Everyone can see that I tried my best. The industry is in flux. It's mostly beyond my control. I honestly can't think of anything that I could have done differently.

Which is why my word for the year is "Legacy". Even with all of the wins I've attained throughout 2022 and 2023 : Nobody gives a shit that I tried my best. The reality is, "What do I have to show for it?"

I am reminded of this 2013, throwback moment -

"I feel like I'm fighting a lot now at this point in my life. I was hoping I could get a win here, you know?"

The footage captured here was a real moment. After I had lost my quarter final fight during the inaugural MIMMA tournament. My first and most likely last proper cage fight. I had just come out 3 full hard fought rounds. My opponent was not as good a striker as I was. But he was good enough to get me off my feet and on my back, on the ground. I lost out on points.

At what felt like the last 30 secs of the last round, my opponent had me in a full crucifix, my hands and legs were completely tied up. He had one arm free to just hammer away at my face and there was nothing I could do to defend myself. Thankfully, I kept moving and his blows weren't landing fully. So the ref didn't stop the fight.

But there have been very few moments in my life where I've felt that powerless.

I joined the tournament because I felt that a lot of things were out of my control at the time. Joining a MMA fight tournament gave me the feeling of agency. Win or lose, it'll come down to just me vs some other guy and whether I could pull it all together to come out the better fighter in the moment. That's life isn't it?

I trained as hard as I could have at the time, given the resources available to me. I held nothing back. But I still lost the fight.

However, I walked away from that experience learning an important lesson.

To be resilient in the face of failure. To truly understand the cliched saying that sometimes you win, sometimes you lose. Don't get me wrong, I take ownership of the loss. But I know that sometimes I can be putting my best foot forward and still lose. And it's ok. Life goes on.

I like the analogy about a group of people running from a bear :

I don't need to run faster than the bear, I just need to be able to run faster than at least one other person in the group.

I hold no illusion that I am best in the world at anything that I do. But at this point in my life, I know that I'm not only running faster than just 'one person' in the group. I believe myself to be somewhere near the leader. Not ahead of everyone, and that's ok.

But it's not enough for me to be ok with losing anymore.

Learning hard lessons to take with me on the inside doesn't cut it for me now. Moving forward, I want to be create tangible things. Something you can touch, feel, see and hold.

Take away my personal life, looking back at some of my proudest moments as an Actor, Producer and overall Creative Practitioner. The last 10+ years have been transient and not tangible enough.

  • As an Actor, some of my best work was put on stage. For example, I was nominated for my first Kakiseni award for best actor in The Edge Musical (2018) but there isn't even a good recording of my work preserved on that.

  • People come up to me and tell me that they loved CUAK (2014) my first movie as a Producer, but it doesn't go beyond a small niche group of industry players.

  • I am personally proud of OI! JAGA MULUT (S2), a 4 episode series of stand-up comedy specials featuring up & coming Malay stand-ups produced for iflix but the platform is no longer active. So no opportunities for future seasons.

  • In my advertising career, RTV Malaysia, the department I founded and ran for 5 years under the Nuffnang banner no longer exists. The multitude of branded content I produced over those years, not even mine but belonging to the brands I serviced.

Which is why this year, more than ever, it's about 'legacy'. I want to make concerted efforts towards making things that are 'tangible'. Something that is more within my control.

"No one gives a shit about the guy who lost ... in order to prove myself, I'll have to fight again."

It's already nearing the end of January. Let's hit the ground running and keep fighting!

If you read all the way to the end here, thank you for caring. What's your word of the year? Leave me comment or DM me on any of my socmed accounts. Don't be shy. I want to form real, tangible connections this year too. It's all connected to my word of the year : Legacy!

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