Life Hacks

Reverse Engineer Your Life to Work for You

Tim Denning Life Advice

Photo by Daniel Pelaez Duque on Unsplash


You are going to be the problem.

I can tell you before you start that you’ll be the biggest problem. Reverse engineer your life by assuming you’re going to be the biggest problem. How do you defeat the issue?

  • Personal responsibility
  • Regular reflection
  • An accountability partner

Now you know the biggest problem you can start in reverse. You will stay away from blaming and complaining your way to a nightmare life.

Try to predict the mistakes ahead of time.

Where have you screwed it all up before? That’s a good place to start. If you’ve messed it up once then you’ll probably do it again.

Get leverage on yourself. Write down the likely mistakes in the notes app of your phone.

Pretend you’re going to get rejected 101 times.

Whatever the goal is pretend there will be rejection. Spoiler alert: there is going to be endless rejection.

If you expect a lot of rejection it’s going to be easier to handle.

Write down a plan. What are you going to do when you get rejected? Here’s my rejection plan that you can steal:

  • Ask for the opportunity again.
  • Come back two days later like a puppy dog.
  • Be nice leading up to, and in the middle of, the rejection.
  • For big rejections, sleep on them.
  • Reframe the rejection into social media posts that help others.
  • Have a trap door to escape through if you need a break.

Choose one goal and write the steps backwards.

Many people write the steps they need to take from where they are. A helpful exercise is to start with the outcome you want and work backwards.

If you wanted to write a best-selling book, as an example, what steps would you have to take?

The book is published. Leading up to the book being published you promote it like crazy. Before that you would get your social media accounts in order. Before that you would pitch a publisher. Before that you would write a lot of blog posts on the internet. Before that you might write short social media posts for two years. Before that you might make friends with other writers. Before that you might read a lot of books as inspiration.

See how much easier a goal is when you reverse engineer it?

Use someone else’s cheatsheet.

Screw it. Why even engineer anything at all? There is a thousand blueprints on the internet for the thing you want to do. You can just borrow, beg copy or steal someone else’s.

An online course is a cheatsheet.
A 30-minute Zoom call with someone who has the result is a cheatsheet.

A friend of mine once wanted to be good at public speaking like his hero John Demartini. He paid John $5000 to have lunch with him. His friends (like me) thought he was flaming nuts. My friend thought it was money well spent and patted himself on the back. They ended up becoming friends. John helped him get speaking gigs and invited him to his events.

You know the difference? My friend gave a lot upfront to show he was serious and wasn’t kidding around about cheating at public speaking.

Why can’t you cheat at your goal and pay someone who has what you want enough money to get their attention? $1000 gets you a long way — into a person’s calendar.

Life hacks can be cheat codes.

Take the opposite approach.

Another way to reverse engineer the outcome is to do the exact opposite as everybody else who has done what you want to do.

If everybody is on Youtube and standing in the crowd, then pick an up-and-coming platform that nobody is on.

When I started writing I was told I needed a WordPress blog and to master SEO. I told everybody who told me this “no thank you.” I knew this approach would force me to give up. SEO feels like mind manipulation. WordPress blogs make me feel like I need to become a web developer — my worst nightmare.

So I took another approach. I started writing here and on LinkedIn. Everybody told me I was nuts. They said it would never work. They were all wrong. Six years of effort proved there was another way.

Now everybody is reverse engineering their career in content creation, by starting with social media, and then building their own website later down the line.

Take a goal and break it apart.

Big goals look scary. Break a big goal into small pieces and it starts to look manageable and even easy.

Writing looks hard. If you knew that all it took was one social media post per day, that took you ten minutes to write, would it seem so hard? Nope-e-e-e.

Break a goal apart and try putting it back together in reverse.


Cliffhanger: You’ll Be Wrong Anyway.

Over the cliff we go. People hate when I say this. Even after all the reverse engineering, you’ll be wrong anyway. You will start on a path and end up on another path like magic. That’s the beauty of the momentum you get by reverse engineering your life to work for you.

The “working for you part” is also known as momentum. The very act of thinking about the process and daring to reverse engineer it will get you started. Your life works against you when you try to predict results and think you’ve got all the answers.

Not having the answers is a gift from a galaxy far, far, far away. Tools like “strategies” and “plans” are often nothing more than disguises for inaction. Anyone who has worked in corporate will tell you this. How often do you have a big, giant meeting with a bunch of wankers in suits and nothing ever comes of it? It’s the corporate way a lot of the time.

Reverse engineering is secret handshake talk for starting. It’s also code for doing things differently, doing the unconventional, starting in an odd place, not following the rules of your suppressors.

Reverse engineer your goal and then riff a little until you’re wrong enough to become right. Because the right answer for your life is totally different from anybody else’s.

Tim Denning
Tim is a thought leader in the personal development, entrepreneur and startup fields.Outside of blogging, Tim works for a large organisation helping fast moving technology companies come to Australia as well as helping Australian tech companies go to the world.

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