Category : Life


Eight Tough Love Pieces of Life Advice You Need to Hear

Tim Denning Tough Love

Photo by Robbie Duncan on Unsplash

Sugarcoated advice that panders the reader is a disaster.

It’s everywhere.

You can’t learn from fence-sitters who seek to be accepted, rather than truth-tellers who seek to make you think.

Tough love advice got me out of a dark place. I returned to that dark place recently when tragedy struck. These nuggets of wisdom helped me and they can help you rethink your life, too.

Life is fair from birth

By age 30, you should come to the realization that the world owes you nothing — The Art of Purpose

Throughout my life I’ve met many people who think life isn’t fair. They complain about how the world should be. They believe they should have more opportunities, more money, or better status positions.

This way of thinking nukes your optimism.

The world owes you nothing. No politician is sitting in their office right now trying to make the world fair for you. What if the world is already fair? What if you could make the world fair by taking harsh realities and turning them into motivation? You can.

What holds us back becomes fuel to write wrongs. That level of motivation will make you unstoppable.

You’re not lazy, you’re purposeless

The word “purpose” is XXX rated.

Instagram yogi gurus peddle the word like snake oil. Purpose isn’t so spiritual and complicated, though.

Purpose is simply a reason beyond your selfish desires to wake up in the morning. I know mothers who don’t own a billion-dollar unicorn startup or don’t write Martin Luther King speeches for breakfast that have loads of purpose: their baby.

The reason you want a purpose for your life, according to Holocaust survivor Victor Frankl, is “When a person can’t find a deep sense of meaning, they distract themselves with pleasure.”

You don’t want to become a pleasure junkie.

People like me who’ve worked in tech know the purposeless life all too well. Software engineer Luke Metro helps us get the answer.

Image Credit: Luke Metro via Twitter

Tech jobs struggle to provide meaning. That’s why tech workers burn out and can’t work out why, even when they’re earning 6-figure salaries.

We’re starving for meaning. We’re dying to feel like our lives matter.

Spend stupid amounts of time working out why you need to wake up tomorrow morning.

Success is the willingness to feel vulnerable

Many things in life make you feel vulnerable and like you want to curl up into a ball:

  • Saying no
  • Presenting a new idea
  • The prospect of marriage
  • Having kids
  • Accepting failure
  • Starting a new project
  • Getting a new job
  • Challenging leaders
  • Telling it how it is on social media

If you can’t lean into these vulnerable situations, you live life at a massively lower level. You avoid discomfort. Eventually you no longer feel like yourself anymore. It doesn’t make sense.

Things that make you feel vulnerable help you grow. Growth is evidence that you’re trying in life. Effort equals rewards over the long term.

The risk when you’re vulnerable is you’ll be exposed, attacked, or harmed. The risk when you avoid vulnerability is you’ll become an invisible human.

It’s better to be seen for who you are than to be sheltered by who you could have been. Regrets suck.

“Listen to your heart” is stupid advice

When your gut tells you to drop everything to go all-in on learning and building, listen to it.

— Dan Koe

In the last year I listened to my gut instead. It told me to drop everything and go all-in on writing. I had zero plan. But I listened.

The first few months were brutal. The temptation to be a lazy bum was enormous. Yet I found a way. My gut was right. I want to write for the rest of my life. It’s powerful when that level of conviction takes over. You won’t get the gift, though, if you don’t act on your gut feelings.

What has your gut been telling you to do for a lifetime?

Go start on it. Make the first call. Send the first email. Publish the first post. Make the first product. Write the first line of code.

Pay the price of entry

Most of us walk around trying to avoid loss — particularly when it comes to money. This is the wrong approach.

You want to lose some money. Losses mean you invested.

“No investment = no commitment” according to finance expert Mark Bovair.

This year I lost thousands of dollars trying to build a website. I paid the price of entry. Now I’m on the path to a great website. The quality of the outcome wouldn’t have been as high if I didn’t suffer the hard losses.

Losses are free motivation.

Spend money to make money. See losses as the price of entry.

Your only competitor in life until death

A fellow content creator saw me as a competitor. They became pissed when I launched a course on writing. They wanted to be the only person on the internet with a writing course.

“How dare they!”

*Hits block button until eternity*

The whole situation took me by surprise. I’ve had online education in my blood since 2004. LOL. It took me years to understand that collaborating with others doesn’t create competitors. Nope. It creates more luck. The market for opportunities is huge.

We get lucky when we work together.

The gladiator game of winners and losers is stupid. Winning is a team sport. Similar interests tell you who could be on your team — not who to turn into fake enemies you create voodoo dolls for and poke in the chest at midnight with pins.

New game: compete with who you were a year ago.

The path to an unstoppable life

The life you want is built on habits. There’s no way around it. What you do consistently will determine who you become in 5 years. What I’ve realized is the hard part isn’t habits. No.

The hard part is habit maintenance.

When tragedy or bullsh*t strikes the temptation to give up your best habits for a day, week, month, or year is tempting.

The days you don’t want to do your habits are the days you must. The trick isn’t to become a navy seal and develop a mind like a fortress. All you have to do is show up for 15 minutes and reinforce the habit on a bad day.

Habits maintain the belief of who you seek to become.

99% of people waste their free time. It quietly ruins their life.

Successful people use their free time to get ahead. That’s their secret — Brian Feroldi

It’s hard to admit. We piss our time up against the wall. We waste our most precious resource. We lie to ourselves about how much time we have.

You don’t want to hear it but you need to measure where your time goes. Keep track. As the cliche goes, what gets measured gets managed. The importance of free time is why the side hustle movement has become so big.

If you want to improve your life you’ve got to find time. The time is found before and after work, on holidays, on weekends, on lunch breaks, and during drainer presentations your boss puts on.

Cheat on your boss. Cheat on your job. Cheat on your friends once in a while.

Use free time to change your life. It’s the smartest way.

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Growth Is Uncomfortable. Not Growing Is Worse.

Tim Denning Medium Writing

Photo by Sergey Vinogradov on Unsplash

I’ve lost everything many times.

Many people in my life who’ve lost everything have done unfortunate stuff —  like walk in front of trains.

Not me, thankfully. Losing everything forces me to become hungry. It’s an accelerator of growth rather than a limiter that leads to depression.

For a long time I didn’t understand it.

The title of this article comes from Gumroad founder Sahil. It helped me understand growth.

I then studied Venus and Serena Williams after watching a movie based on their life called “King Richard” starring Will Smith.

Throughout the movie the sisters are the underdogs. They don’t have money for coaching. They don’t have nice tennis gear. They play tennis at the local courts in Compton California, one of the most dangerous neighborhoods anywhere on earth.

Their dad gets beaten up by gangsters for protecting his daughters from likely rape in the near future. Racism is no doubt a huge factor early in their careers. One thing stands out.

Defeat makes them stronger, not weaker.

It’s like they want to lose. It increases their hunger. They become more determined. They grow or die in the game of tennis. It’s a beautiful story everybody should study.

Next time I fall flat on my face, I am going to channel the Williams sisters.

High-performers don’t get angry when they lose. They get more motivated.

Get your mind tight

Your thoughts are the architects of your destiny 

— David McKay

Growth is a mind game.

Your mind doesn’t want you to grow. It wants you to be safe and not get killed by a grizzly bear on a morning walk in the park.

To grow you have to train your mind. Not once. Every day.

You have to program your mind with useful thoughts. It’s why I stay away from politics and the news. It pollutes my mind with someone else’s agenda. Things that are out of your control waste your potential.

It’s easy to stay comfortable. I did for years. I numbed the pain of mental illness by staying home and binge-watching Hollywood movies.

My routine on a Saturday was simple. Go to Grill’d Hamburger and get a Mighty Melbourne burger. Swing by 7-Eleven on the way home and get a 2L bottle of soda, a bag of Doritos, and plenty of lollies.

I’d get home and eat it all. Then at the end of the movie I’d start on a bottle of Jim Beam. It made me feel rebellious to drink while in bed, instead of going out with my friends to bars to drink with them. I couldn’t drink with them, though.

They didn’t know my dark secret.

They didn’t know how uncomfortable I got when I drank excessively in front of them. And would say too much about forbidden topics, followed by vomiting all over their nicely ironed shirts.

So I stayed home, comfortable.

I lived like this for a long time. I’d wake up the next day and watch kids’ cartoons to take me back to childhood. I just wanted adult life to stop. It was too hard.

At a certain point I got the hot tip to work on my mind. Not just to cure mental illness, but to get back in the game of life. I did the most basic thing known to humankind: I read books. Books messed up my thoughts. They changed the order. Books became the catalyst for everything that followed.

I started with finance books. That led to books about the Holocaust. Then I ended up reading straight self-help books.

Books you wouldn’t normally read start to invisibly change your thoughts.

The destroyer of growth

Society is plagued with the 7 deadly sins

Lust: Tinder Sloth: Netflix Pride: Twitter Greed: Amazon Envy: Instagram Wrath: Facebook Gluttony: Uber Eats

The greatest trick the devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn’t exist.

— Dakota Robertson

Tech companies screw with our growth potential. They bring out the worst in us: lust, sloth, pride, greed, envy, wrath, gluttony.

What looks like an innocent app on your phone is so much more. It’s a temptation. Temptation can eventually become an addiction if you’re not careful.

I binged on p*rn and Tinder for years. Then when I had a successful business I spent money on Amazon like it was going out of fashion. All of the goods piled up in my home.

My best friend would come over. He’d take photos for social media of all my cool stuff. Then we’d order alcohol to get delivered and get loaded up on takeaway carbs. My belly started to hang over my pants. My growth potential disappeared.

The silent killer of a good life is the apps on our phones.

What happens when you don’t grow

If you wake up in the morning, with no sense of purpose or direction, you’re most likely to end up recycling your unproductive habits. 

Purpose, the cure to life’s greatest pandem*c, ‘wasted lives.’ 

— George Blue Kelly

No growth equals no purpose.

When you have a solid purpose or meaning for your life it’s hard not to grow. A reason to wake up is what sets up your day.

I didn’t have one. All I cared about was buying dumb sh*t on Amazon and building some huge business, so I could flash the keys to a red Ferrari at a nightclub and pick up a 6-foot blonde to take home.

Shouldn’t admit that, but’s it’s the truth.

I stayed the same person for years. My childhood self was my adult self. That’s what happens when you don’t grow.

If you don’t completely feel sick at the person you were five years ago, it’s a red flag that can help you see the problem.

If you let a lack of growth continue for long enough you’ll start to feel numb. When bad stuff happens in the world you’ll feel indifferent. When tragedy strikes you’ll feel as if it’s guaranteed to happen and define bad luck as the reason.

Nobody is saying to grow from a normal person into a navy seal overnight. But if you’re not spending some time in discomfort so you can grow, you’re missing out on the enormous benefits.

Habits lead to unstoppable growth

You are your habits.

Your mind is a reflection of your habits.

Your body is a reflection of your habits.

Your bank account is a reflection of your habits.

Fix your habits first.

And everything else will follow.

— EmpireEd

So how do you grow? Start with habits.

What you do daily defines who you’ll be annually.

It’s the reason the book “Atomic Habits” by James Clear is one of the best-selling books in history.

Habits are simple. What tasks are you doing every day? What tiny tasks could you add that act like seeds you plant in the garden?

If you plant enough habit seeds, at least one of them is bound to grow into an enormous tree and perhaps a forest after five years. The tiny seed I planted was reading books in the car late at night. It seemed so dumb. I told no one. The books didn’t cost a lot so my minimum wage salary could afford them.

Dissect your daily habits to predict your future growth.

Growth costs $0

It costs $0.00 to be an optimist.

It costs $0.00 to be kind.

It costs $0.00 to think long-term.

— Brian Feroldi

To grow requires optimism. To grow requires good people around you that kindness helps attract to you. To grow from who you are today to who you want to be in a year requires a long-term commitment.

All this is free.

There’s zero barrier to entry other than effort. Add creativity and you’ve got a growth trajectory that will blow you away.

The best type of work that will lead you to growth

Our best work is the work we find ourselves doing, when there is no obligation to do so — Naval Ravikant

Work is another path to growth. When we engage in an activity — like a side hustle — enough times, we learn a lot from the active experience. This goes against conventional wisdom. The normal path is to passively learn in a classroom and wait to be ready and given credentials.

Growth requires creativity. And when you do work you love, your creativity wakes up. It’s the kind of work you would do if you had all the free time in the world and never had to work another day in your life. Mine is writing.

Experiment with a new type of work, therefore, moving towards discomfort.

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If You Fit In, You’re Replaceable

Corporate Sheep

Photo by Chris Yang on Unsplash

If there’s a second Buddha then it’s Keanu Reeves.

Every time an article about him pops up I read it and wonder. I know something wild is going to happen. In a recent interview actor Sandra Bullock helps us understand Keanu’s weirdness.

“When I first met him, I would spend as much time as I could filling a silence, just to feel comfortable.

And the more I jibber-jabbered on, the quieter he would get. And I thought, I don’t understand what’s happening! He’s looking at me with eyes of confusion. He’s quiet. Did I say something to offend him?”

Keanu prefers to listen than to talk.

He doesn’t fit into society. He’s an outcast, a weirdo, an oddball.

At the end of the interview with the Esquire writer Keanu heads outside the Paris cafe to go to horse training for a new movie. The head waiter stops him before he gets out the door and says, “I want to introduce you to someone.”

In a soft, kind, polite tone Keanu says “Thank you, but probably not.”

The waiter looks shocked. “Why not?”

“Time and work,” Keanu says.

Keanu doesn’t fit in, and that’s why he isn’t replaceable and one of the most iconic dudes on the planet. Silence, kindness, and humility are rare.

The goal is to not fit in, according to Tascha Che whose quote is the title of this story.

Powerful leaders are weirdos

My former boss doesn’t fit in.

He’s a monk in a black suit with no necktie and a shaved head. When my life falls apart he shows up at my door 2 hours later. More than once, and even when he’s not my boss. He owes me nothing, yet I owe him everything.

The guy is a weirdo. Yet companies all around the world want his presence. He grew up on a plantation farm. He came from humble beginnings. He doesn’t care about Lambos. He’s in the business of teaching life lessons, not focusing on revenue.

In a way he’s a lot like Keanu. He shows up to make the world slightly better. It’s not deliberate. It’s not some bullsh*t personal brand. It’s a way of being.

People used to laugh at the fact he didn’t fit in at work. Now they’re not laughing at him anymore. Instead, they’re all desperately trying to get a job working for him.

Good leaders are the ones that stand out, not fit in.

The replaceable corporate sheep

Most employees are easily replaceable. They could walk out onto the street after work, get hit by a car, die, and by Monday morning there could be a new warm body in their office chair. Harsh yet true.

I’ve worked with many corporate sheep. They try to fit in. They agree with HR. They show up to networking events. They say “great presentation” after a lifeless train-wreck of a speech that affected the customer’s will to live.

In a previous job I decided not to fit in.

I got given a pain-in-the-butt customer. It took me a while to get a hold of someone inside of their massive organization. They gave me 15 minutes to speak, to avoid getting an angry email from their boss for refusing to talk to me. You can’t say much in 15 minutes. So I cut straight to the point.

“We’d like to work with you again,” I said.

Then I shut up and listened.

“We won’t ever work with your employer. All you do is sell useless IT outsourcing solutions that are low quality, low cost, zero responsibility, and cause disasters.”

The customer went on a rant. I let them. They got to the end. Time was running out and the meeting ended abruptly.

My one chance died.

I searched around for a solution. It would be too hard to convince them my employer was worth working with. So I looked for a way to change employer names. I googled my employer. We’d made no less than six acquisitions in a year. I searched on LinkedIn for a face at one of the acquisitions. A high school contact showed up. We had coffee.

Then I said, “Can I borrow you and your employer’s logo for 15 minutes?”


A few weeks later I managed to get time with the other leader, who worked with the previous guy that wanted my employer assassinated. Again, I got 15 minutes. I got right to it.

“Would you consider working with my employer?” I said.

The customer went on the same rant as his colleague.

“You guys are the worst IT company in history.”

He waited for my response.

“I completely agree. What we did isn’t fair. We sell low-quality, low-cost solutions that blow up in your face. Never trust us again.”

The customer seemed taken back. Apparently the last three people that had my job all tried to fit in and change his mind.

“Look, we acquired a company that does high-quality work in the areas you need help. They’re not offshore, they know their stuff, and they also hate my employer. They are a separate company and have nothing to do with us. Can I introduce you to them instead?”

The customer agreed. Not long after we signed the unsignable deal, according to my boss, and made a boatload of money for our corporate mothership.

Those that came before me followed the corporate sheep off a cliff. They tried to change minds instead of admit their mistakes and listen to the customer.

That’s why they became replaceable. Some got fired. Others took forced redundancies. And others got micromanaged until they quit.

Patient people don’t fit in

What looks like success is often just patience

— Shane Parrish

I tell people to think of big goals over 5 years.

This rule has pissed off herds of sheep.

They think my approach is dumb. Society wants everything now. Dopamine-driven smartphone behavior makes us ungrateful adult babies. We blame tech when we really should blame ourselves for being so impatient.

You can fit in and want everything now. Or you can be an outcast and want everything when you’ve put in the effort and earned the right.

Short-term thinking leads to failure. That makes you replaceable. Oh, and nobody cares about your sob story because nobody is coming to save you.

Save yourself and learn patience.

The zero hype pseudonymous icon that changed the internet forever

Satoshi Nakamoto is an outcast that invented Bitcoin. You can read through all of his work and online conversations with a simple google search.

What I love about Satoshi is there’s zero hype.

He/she would be pissed if they could see all the Lambo, crypto scams, and flexing that came after their idea went mainstream and blew up the internet.

Satoshi is most well-known for the fact they undersold and overdelivered. That’s why their work can never be replaced. If they’d tried to fit in we would have ended up with another greedy Mark Zuckerberg.

Instead what we got is a person so humble that they wanted their idea to help society, and then to exit through a hidden trap door, never to be spoken of again.

Think about how irreplaceable humble people are.

Final Thought

Loud, obnoxious, selfish people that do what everyone else does are replaceable. Don’t become like the sheep.

Try to *not* fit in.

Be unconventional like Satoshi. Be humble like Keanu. Do the opposite of the corporate sheep and get away from the corporate Powerpoint deck. Arrive at the doorstep of someone in need like my former boss, even when you’re not asked.

Be yourself. Be a weirdo. Think in 5-year chunks. Be quiet more often. That’s how you become irreplaceable, therefore, unforgettable.

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I Got Married (Finally)

Relationship Lessons. Love.

Image supplied by author (Pictured: Me and my wife)

Coroni-macaroni didn’t want us to get married.

Well F-You Coroni!

Our wedding got canceled three times because of lockdowns. Nothing could stop us today. It happened.

The photos are a little strange. We got married next to Parliament House. The steps were full of riot police and protestors. The uneducated were protesting about vaccines again. It looked more like a party though.

A few bragged they were there for ‘the drinks.’ A few said they had already taken the vaccine. One guy handed out icy-poles — protestors took one and then sucked on it together with their neighbor (super spreaders).

Unmasked rebels approached us as we walked down the street.

“The police will let you through for wedding photos if you ask them.”

I tried to keep my distance. Coroni was guaranteed to be present amongst the mob. We approached the steps of Parliament.

“Excuse me officer, could we take one photo on the steps?”

Officer: “No. Photos are prohibited.”

Getting married during one of the weirdest times in history comes jam-packed full of lessons. Here’s a few I’ve learned that you’ll find useful.

Getting married isn’t for everyone

Announcing you got married can be a joyous experience. There’s another side though. Not everyone wants to get married.

I have friends who are happily single for life. I have other friends who are happily divorced and never want to get married again. When I told friends our good news it made me feel awkward with certain people.

If you get married or are already married, don’t rub it in other people’s faces. Marriage is deeply personal. For some it works. For others it doesn’t. You do what works for you.

Cheap weddings should be mandatory

Our wedding cost less than $1000. That means we didn’t have to go into debt or give up our life savings to the sacrificial wedding planner gods.

We got out cheap. On purpose.

We had a total of two guests — my mother and father. I used my 7 year old Canon Camera to film the event. We took a $30 Uber to the government wedding registry office. Make no mistake though, the government office is hundreds of years old and absolutely spectacular.

The entire ceremony went for 15 minutes, yet it was incredibly special to us.

You don’t need to go big with a wedding to show off and achieve instagram success status.

Three of my friends are about to get married. I told them about how good we felt the option we chose is. Now all three are ditching the rip-off wedding scam plan and getting married at the same place.

Inspire others to take a low-cost wedding. Let it save them a lifetime of debt that will subtract from their happiness.

I shouldn’t admit this about my wedding

We did something taboo before our wedding. We got marriage counseling. Nobody ever talks about it.

Getting counseling is seen as weakness. I learned that when I had mental illness and saw firsthand why we don’t seek help when we need help.

It’s okay not to be okay. It’s okay to have parts of your relationship you need to work on. It’s okay if you’re not starting married life out as perfect.

Assume failure and get help in advance.

Weddings can be a performance

Weddings feel like the musical “Hamilton.”

A bunch of normal humans get dressed up in periodical outfits and pretend to be happy. Cheesy smiles are everywhere. Family members who haven’t spoken to each other for decades do pretend handshakes and fake hugs. Kids attend and wish they could be at home playing Playstation.

The bride and groom read from scripts. The only interruption to the performance is the legal script. Yesterday the celebrant mentioned to my partner and me the law and the government several times. They called our two guests “witnesses.” They explained (briefly) what happens if we break the marriage law. They used our full names and checked our ids.

For many, a wedding is a performance. That’s not what I wanted. I don’t need to look happy in front of a bunch of strangers and craft scripts written by Shakespeare to read out. I don’t need three courses of food that I’ll be paying off for a long time.

I don’t need to prove to anybody I’m in love. A marriage is between two people and it’s private. Everybody can join the party after if they choose.

Choose real love, not a performance that looks like love.

Getting married is stressful AF

Even with no guests and nothing fancy, it’s stressful. A wedding dress is like a crown jewel being escorted to the airport by the police so it can be shipped to a new location.

The back of my wife’s gown had a lattice pattern that had to be done up to secure the dress in its position. I did a practice run. One hour and many f-words later I got it done. It looked terrible.

My mother came to the rescue on the big day. Still it proved tricky. We both had make-up done at home. It took hours longer than expected. We were nearly late. At one point things got so stressful that I fired up the old “Calm” meditation app and did a session. Surprisingly, I reactivated my monk mode.

What causes stress is the need for perfection.

You want your wedding to be perfect. If one thing goes wrong it can feel like it’s a nuclear disaster. This lesson bleeds into other areas of life.

Lower your expectations to decrease your stress and increase your happiness.

When people can’t come it breaks your heart

My in-laws couldn’t make it for the big day. They desperately wanted to be there. They are trapped at home because of coroni.

The day before our wedding they sent a heartfelt video wishing us well. They don’t speak English and took the time to learn a few sentences, especially for our big day.

We hope to see them at the end of January if their big, red, communist flag country decides to loosen border restrictions.

The challenge with weddings is not everybody can attend. Sometimes you have to accept failures and move on.

It’s better to try and fail, than to wait for the perfect time and never succeed.

The wedding invitation game of broken dreams

Wedding invitations are a pain in the butt. The lucky ones that get one feel like they won the lottery and get to have a day of drunken debauchery on your credit card.

Those who don’t get an invite feel left out.

It’s a terrible decision one has to make. That’s why the zero invites model for weddings works a treat. Nobody gets left out so everybody stays your friend.

The best relationship book I found in the process

Before the wedding we both read “The Five Love Languages.” It helps you predict all the things that might go wrong so you can handle them in advance. Essentially, we each have a language that makes us feel love.

Many couples speak opposite love languages so they end up in fights for no reason. We took the time to learn each other’s language so we can avoid some of the perils of marriage.

Reading makes you better at everything (including marriage).

It all boils down to this

Not everybody should get married. That’s okay. 

You do you. Do what feels right. Enjoy life. Find one partner. Shag multiple partners for life if that’s your vibe.

Choose what makes you feel happy. And no matter how hard you try, marriage can fail too.

So always be humble and don’t shame those who become divorced, because one in two couples will experience it.

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Yesterday, a Painful Tragedy Changed My Life for the next 10 Years

It will help you cope with enormous loss.

Photo by Harvey Robinson on Unsplash

In front of a room full of 50 people, I began crying uncontrollably.

I’m not a crier. I try to be a man’s man.

Who am I kidding?

Early yesterday morning, I experienced the sort of tragedy I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy. You might be wondering what that is. I’m not sure I am ready to write about it. The wound is deep. It hurts more than you could ever know.

What happened after the tragedy is what can help you.

Pay attention to the one person that comes to save your life

After I finished up at the police station and the feds (Oz FBI), I went home.

I rang a few close friends to let them know I’d be out of action. Some heard the story and shrugged it off. Some said, “I’m so sorry.” Others quickly changed the subject.

But then I rang my old boss. One of my closest friends.

“See you at 11 am,” he said in a rush.

“I … can’t,” I said.

“You must.”

For the whole morning I felt numb. You could have punched me in the face and I wouldn’t have felt it. You could have sent me a nasty, racist, rude, message and it would have done nothing. You could have let a steamroller roll over my foot.

I would have felt nothing. Lifeless. A zombie.

A body with a heart and barely a beat.

Still, I made a promise. I met my old boss. I went to shake his hand. He leaned in for a hug. We sat down. He ordered my favorite tea. We’d done this dance before. He was well-rehearsed.

I sat down and tried to hold a conversation. We spoke about the forbidden event. Twin waterfalls began pouring out of my eyes. The sobbing was loud. The (roughly) 50 people in the cafe looked over. Nobody took out their phone to film. Thank god.

These are the gems he gave me in a time of deep pain:

  • Your life has value. Don’t do anything stupid.
  • When you’re deeply emotional about something, don’t make any big decisions. Sleep on it.
  • Spend time with your partner (if you have one).
  • We’re born to suffer. It’s guaranteed.
  • Take the tragic experience and do something useful with it. Otherwise, tragedy wins and you lose.

In the final moments of our conversation he shared something I didn’t know. He’d experienced the exact same tragedy.

That’s when he told me the brutal truth: “This will affect you for at least the next 10 years. Prepare yourself.”

How to spend a day of grief wisely

When grief strikes addictions come knocking at the door of your mind.

I was desperate for an escape. I thought about alcohol for the first time in a long time. I didn’t exercise. I didn’t stretch my back. I didn’t take proper coroni-rona precautions. I didn’t drink any water.

This day of pain happened to fall on my writing day. I attempted to sit down and write. My fingers wouldn’t move. My mind shut down. All I could think about was what happened.

How it was all my fault.

So for the first time in a long time I let myself off the hook. I had a zero day. No progress. No more phone calls. No reading. No self-education.

Complete meltdown.

When your life falls apart, sometimes you have to let it, in order to rebuild.

Productivity is nice. On a day of tragedy it’s a sin. Forgive yourself. Rest. Let the tragedy flow through you, for once it does, you can be done with it.

Own the tragedy but don’t blame yourself

I’m a blamer. I insist on blaming myself.

While what happened is my fault, I refuse to permanently blame myself. We all make mistakes. We all do things we’re not proud of. We all can experience an error in judgment when we’re tired and running on empty.

It’s easy to miss tiny details. Boy! did I miss a tiny detail.

Be the survivor not the victim

The reason I struggle to write about what happened is because I don’t want to become a victim. I don’t want people to feel sympathy for me. The whole tragedy would be pointless if that’s the outcome.

What I want is for people to learn from my mistakes. Maybe I’m a teacher. Maybe I’m crazy. Maybe I’m a son of a b*tch. I don’t know.

But if at least one person learns from my mistake then everything feels worth it. It’s a strange feeling. I realize it isn’t normal that I’ve turned my life inside-out into a series of experiments that anybody in the world can read and perhaps get some value from.

Maybe one day I will understand why. Maybe it’s the breadcrumbs left from the dark mental illness that took over my life and provided daily, silent, torture.

In the end all we can do is survive tragedy. Otherwise it runs our life and we end up out of control. I know intimately what it’s like to be out of control. It’s not a viable option for a long, healthy life.

Most people won’t know what’s going on inside your head

Everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about — Brad Meltzer

I woke up today with a rather loud high-pitch noise in my right ear. When I get stressed my tinnitus goes into overdrive.

When I opened my inbox I started to reply to the messages I’d missed. One guy tried to hustle me out of a $20 discount on my online course. Another person told me to divorce my business partner for a few tiny spelling errors.

One woman messaged me and said I’m a terrible human for selling a course about writing. Then I opened Twitter. A well-known influencer sent me a message. I thought it might be an opportunity to recover from everything that had happened.


They tried to hard sell me into doing online trading. I told them I don’t gamble, politely. They kept going. I tried to explain that I wasn’t in good shape and this was a bad time. They didn’t stop.

Sometimes the people you look up to are a total disappointment when you have a 1–1 conversation with them. That’s why I always say, your idols aren’t perfect. Don’t expect them to be.

None of these interruptions knew the tragedy I’d just experienced. They treated me like a doormat you wipe your filthy shoes on.

It’s not their fault. But it’s worth remembering: your best day could be somebody else’s worst day, so always be kind.

Start over

After a tragedy you’re right back to day one. Today is my day one. The only requirement is to show up. Make the best of it.

So here I am. I’m taking my soon-to-be wife’s advice: “You can always write about what happened.”

She is right as always. That’s why I hope to marry her next week. Talk about odd timing. All one can do is make the most of it.

So here I am on day one, making the most of it. If my former boss is right then it will be 10 years of making the most of it.

Accept. Breathe. Move on from tragedy.

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There Are Six Bizarre Types of Freedom. Many of Us Are Bankrupt in One.

Many of Us Are Bankrupt in One.

Photo by Mo on Unsplash

You’re not in jail. Congrats, you’ve got freedom.

Or you’re born in the western world. Congrats, you’ve also got freedom.

These are the two common ways we think about freedom. Substack writer Stefan Georgi taught me there’s a helluva lot more to freedom than these cliche meanings.

When I read the list below, I realized I’ve been bankrupt in at least one area of freedom many times in my life. You will probably feel the same.

Physical Freedom

I am bankrupt in this area right now. Stefan calls it “being a slave to your body.” That’s exactly how I feel.

I’ve been stuck at home for almost two years during a global health crisis. This has led to too much sitting and not enough moving. My computer is situated conveniently next to the fridge, so I eat too much. My gym has been closed, so that’s my excuse for doing little exercise.

The once a day walk I’ve been doing has been my main escape. My eyes have seemingly guided me towards the delicious pleasures of vegan fried junk food and one too many gelatos to teleport out of reality and into a cloud of salty, sugary bliss.

Now I’m paying massively for it.

Extra dental work to repair teeth. Physio to realign my spine. More time at the gym to attempt to lift weights again. A new office chair and other ergonomic accessories. A rigorous stretching routine.

I’ve been bruised and battered by coroni-macaroni.

The age of my body has advanced by many years. I can feel it. This is what old age must feel like.

When your body is in bad shape you’re not free to do the things you love. Pain becomes a daily frustration, and a distraction. Medical appointments fill up your calendar. Thousands of dollars escape your wallet to pay for the damage.

It’s cheaper to be healthy.

When our bodies are messed up we’re stuck on the couch thinking, how the fudge did this happen? When our bodies work the way they should, we’re free to move through the world without a care — body freedom.

Intellectual Freedom

Social media censors everything from a big Asian country with a red flag, to bitcoin, to a global health crisis.

It’s a pain in the butt. It makes us dumb, not smart.

Intellectual freedom is where we consciously do our own research, evaluate facts, get opinions from multiple sides of an argument, and examine data to see what truths it reveals.

This is a lost art.

Too many people believe stupid social media influencers who seek to gain followers with contrarian views, or listen to the news channels sponsored by ads that can determine the type of content shown, all in the name of maximizing profits.

One of the reasons I’m so pro Bitcoin and Ethereum isn’t because the internet told me to. I’ve spent years doing my own research, looking at data sets, reading white papers, talking to people building on various blockchains, etc.

Stefan says mindset is the key to unclogging the blocks in our brain that prevent us from being intellectually curious. A negative mindset can cause you to get lost in pointless emotions or to start to see opinions as facts.

If you rely on mainstream society to guide you in life, you’re screwed.

It’s intellectual laziness.

You’ve got to think for yourself. That starts with not being so black and white about every subject. Learn to see the middle-ground, the grey areas. While you’re at it, learn to see your blind spots.

None of us were an immaculate conception that can see into the future due to our generational wisdom implanted into our mind at birth by daddy’s sperm.

Freedom to think and do the research is a choice. It sets your mind free.

Emotional Freedom

Human emotions are freaking complex. Emotional freedom is where you don’t allow your emotions to navigate your life. It’s a focus that brings freedom through non-reactivity. Life takes a toll on our emotions.

We’re constantly being stimulated by pin prickers who poke us like voodoo dolls to screw with our day.

Stefan associates emotional freedom with mental health.

If your river of thoughts is polluted then so will your emotions. The path to emotional freedom, he says, is love and empathy.

Rather than react like an emotional adult baby, see other people’s situations as your own. Lean into what that must feel like, therefore, unlocking a new level of emotional freedom.

Relational Freedom

Healthy romantic relationships are bizarre.

We fall in love and then spend 5 out of every 7 days away from home at a job. That’s supposed to be normal. Occasionally we take 2 weeks off to go on holidays and look at each other look at our cellphones while lying on sun lounges.

No wonder we don’t know each other and feel disconnected.

Then at work we’re expected to have some artificial “network” to make the business we work for a lot of money, or at least more productive.

What the?

Most of those work relationships are as deep as a kid’s inflatable plastic pool.

They exist for vanity or to complete a transaction, not to know who the other person really is. So we get home and feel alone, yet we spent the whole day with humans.

Relational freedom is when our relationships with others are deep and feel fulfilling — when we feel connected to something bigger than ourselves. That’s when we feel this harder-to-reach form of freedom.

Spiritual Freedom

I am not religious. However, I am deeply spiritual. I believe in karma. I believe everything that happens in life has a meaning behind it, even if we can’t see it right away.

Spiritual freedom has a lot to do with believing in the human spirit. It goes beyond just liking humans. It bleeds into the idea that you believe our species will survive and climate change won’t wipe out the earth.

It’s the belief that other humans are inherently good and trying to do the right thing. It’s seeing your fellow humans as teammates rather than competitors. When your mind is made up of these beliefs you feel spiritually free.

You’re not waiting for anybody or anything to come and save you because you’re already free.

Finally, the powerful freedom you already know

This form of freedom has become popular since the internet age: financial freedom. The meaning has changed over time.

The original purpose was to make a ton of money and then buy luxury items to show society your newfound status. This concept is slowly becoming extinct. The new form of financial freedom is to make enough money so you can own your time again.

There’s no need to make millions. You can get there with low expenses or off-grid living, if you choose.

The point is to have your calendar free to do meaningful work, think, read, write, practice your hobbies, and be with your family whenever you want.

Owning your time 100% makes you feel powerful. Many of us haven’t felt like that for a long time. I’ve only experimented with it in the last twelve months.

A zero meeting calendar allows you to work on the other five freedoms, so you could say it’s the most powerful freedom of all. I’ll let you decide.

Stop feeling enslaved by the system. Reconnect with and prioritize these six types of freedom to transform your life.

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