I struggled to write this post.

It’s been nearly three hours. All I did was to sit in front of my computer, write the first couple paragraphs, delete, and repeat.

It’s not because there’s nothing to write. On the contrary, I have an entire nothing-went-as-planned year of 2015 to summarize and an overly-planned new year of 2016 to look forward to. It’s because instead of simply listing what’s been accomplished in 2015 and what’s coming in 2016, I wanted to write this post in a way that’s more valuable to you, because I’m honored that you chose to spend some time with me this year by reading and following along. I hope you found my work helpful, whether it’s a recipe or a story, and I can’t wait to keep doing it in the new year.

So I will start by sharing the way I close 2015 and plan 2016.

Maybe you’ll ask, “If nothing went as planned for you in 2015, what’s the point to plan 2016?”

It’s a habit, my friend, a good one. Planning your year can help you become more aware of your achievements and sorrows; it can make you realize how much can happen just in a year and how much you are capable of getting done just in a year. Planning is not only looking ahead but learning from the past so that you can plan your future in a way that you don’t repeat the same patterns and feel more in control of your life.

That’s why I highly recommend “The Year Ahead” booklet. It’s completely free to download and it looks something like this.


As I was going through my 2015 calendar to remind myself of any important event, family gathering or significant project happened in this year, there was this big physical move from San Francisco, CA to Jacksonville, FL at the very beginning of 2015 (January 13, 2015) because Han’s business went south overnight, which kinda set the tone of our 2015 – grinding!


We regret the decision of moving across the country many times throughout the year, especially when we realized that we were not left alone to grind on our projects; it’s basically impossible for us to build a network; and last but not least, there’s nothing to do here. We hated it but couldn’t move out sooner because of our one-month long China trip in October for our belated wedding. We didn’t really have full control of our lives.

The obstacle was laying right in front of us. And the way we saw and understood what occurred around us was our bad perceptions, which resulted in those hateful regrets.

When I continued with “The Year Ahead” booklet where it asked me to fill out three of my biggest accomplishments from last year, what I had done to achieve these, who helped me and how, I looked at my answers and suddenly realized that I wouldn’t have had the time and room to publish a book if Han’s parents didn’t open the door of their empty house in Jacksonville to us; I wouldn’t have built the relationship with Han’s brother Felix and his girlfriend Stephanie, knowing that I have a family here; I wouldn’t have deeply understood American culture in terms of food and pivot my recipes to suit you better; I wouldn’t have started driving…

Stuff happens. What makes a difference is our perceptions. In other words, it’s the angel we choose to look at things. It’s easy to say but it takes skills and disciplines to put things in different perspectives. But once we learned how to do it, we will see things simply and straightforwardly, as they truly are — neither good nor bad. This will help us fight against obstacles in life.

My story is just an example. My obstacles were tiny comparatively. But I view it as a path now, to something better and greater, which I will explain shortly. If you find yourself being stopped by something that you don’t have control over, focus on what you can control. If you are interested in learning more about this topic and applying it to your own life. Read “The Obstacle Is The Way” by Ryan Holiday. Here’s a quote from the book.

The Obstacle Is The Way


I truly love what I do and I am not saying this for the sake of promoting my blog.

Cooking was not my passion two years ago and I had no idea it would be. So the so-called “follow your passion and do what you love” advice was not my case at all. Was my passion real estate since that’s what I had been doing for years prior to moving to the States? No, not really. That’s just a job. I didn’t know what my passion was, just like many others.

It was not until after constantly honing the skills of cooking, food styling, and photographing, then becoming good at it that I discovered what my passion really was.

Most of the questions in “The Year Ahead” booklet require some thinking, which really helps to assess the past year. However, when I reached to the last question about my 2015 where it says “A book was made about your past year. Write down its title.” It didn’t even take me a second to write down the answer.

“So Good They Can’t Ignore You”, authored by Cal Newport, who sets out on a quest to discover the reality of how people end up loving what they do, fits my 2015 perfectly. In the book, Cal reveals that passion comes after you put in the hard work to become excellent at something valuable, not before, which totally resonates with me. I have cooked and photographed 329 recipes in 2015 for my book, for the people who hired me, for this blog, and for the soon-to-be-launched meal plan service DelishPlan. Not to mention that the recipes were all time tested. The more I practice, the better I get. As a result, I am more passionate about what I do.

Best 9

Therefore, if you want to jump out of bed being excited about what you will be doing for the day every morning you wake up, or if you are frustrated by the current job situation and eager to find a fresh new way to take control of your life, “So Good They Can’t Ignore You” provides a blueprint that will change the way you think about careers and happiness.


Finally, the year ahead…2016.

2015 is rough but good in its own way. It brought us to where we are, hiding, getting healed, restarting and preparing for our next move, which is happening very very soon.

Austin, TX

One year in Jacksonville allowed us to put our life back together. We now have the vision of where we want to go and what we want to achieve in the next three to five years or so. What’s left is the action. Our first move in 2016 is going to be a big one, physically again. We are moving to Austin, TX in early February 2016.

Why not move directly back to San Francisco? It’s our ultimate goal, but it doesn’t make financial sense at the moment. What attracts us the most is the big entrepreneur community and the growth that has been happening in Austin. We visited the city in early December and we loved the vibe there. The only downside is the traffic since there’re only two highways running from the north to the south of the city, but that’s not stopping us from settling in Austin.


During our visit, we had a chance to grab brunch with 7 entrepreneurs from the Dynamic Circle, which is an online community for entrepreneurs all over the world. The interaction addressed all of our concerns and confirmed that Austin is the place that we want to be, at least for the next three or five years. During the brunch, I was sitting right next to a girl named Betty and completely inspired by her story. She has an incredibly awesome personality and capability to bring people together. She told me that every year, she learns a new skill. Last year was cooking. This year was dancing. That got me thinking – what skill do I want to develop in 2016?

A New Skill – Videography

In October, right before my wedding, I went to Bangkok, Thailand to attend Dynamic Circle’s annual conference called DCBKK for the first time. My mind was blown away by what people do for a living and how they do it. Providing value and making money while traveling the world is not quite the lifestyle I am going after, but starting my day by rolling out of bed and working directly in my pajamas is. For that, I am on the same page with the rest of the group. That’s 250 people. Every single person I got to talk to at the event suggested I produce recipe videos. And that’s the skill I am going to learn in 2016.

After we are settled in Austin, Gourmet Persuasian will have a cooking channel on Youtube. Just a heads up – I am probably going to suck pretty hard at the beginning. So please bear with me.


If you haven’t heard, DelishPlan is a slow cooker meal plan service that made gluten-free friendly. The idea is to utilize 8-10 hours of hands-off slow cooking during the day to help busy home cooks plan and prepare a whole week of meals in less than two hours, then get a stress-free fresh dinner ready when they get back home from work every day all week.

January 19, 2016 (my birthday)! That’s the hard deadline I set for myself to launch the service. I truly hope it will help release busy home cooks from the hassle of preparing and cooking every day and be able to spend more time with families. If you are very fond of your slow cooker just like I am, hop onto the mailing list where I talk about tons of slow cooking tips and tricks every week. (It’s free!)

Two Books

Writing and publishing ““Seven-Day Super Smoothie Cleanse Action Plan” taught me two things. #1. Anyone can write a book (just like anyone can cook). #2. Pros and cons of self-publishing on Amazon. That’s another story for another time.

I am by no means a best-selling author, but by going through the process and listening to my readers, there are two books in my pipeline that I would like to deliver in 2016. One is a slow cooker recipe book that I have already started. The other one is a Tatung Rice Cooker recipe book, which is requested by those who own that specific rice cooker and would like to do more with it besides cooking rice.

That should be enough to keep me busy in 2016. Did you get a chance to plan your year ahead yet? I can’t stress enough about how useful this process is. You might have a list in your mind already, but research says that you are 42 percent more likely to achieve your goals just by writing them down. If you are interested in the booklet I used for setting my goals, here is the download link again.

I realize how precious and important your time is, so thanks so much for reading and for allowing me into your cooking life each and every week. Here is to a delicious and healthy 2016! Happy New Year!

About the Author

Sharon Chen is an Integrative Nutrition Health Coach, an author and a sous vide fanatic who believes food not only brings healing but also connection. As the creator of StreetSmart Kitchen, she's on a mission to help you find balance, ease, joy, and simplicity in the kitchen as you improve your well-being.