Whenever you visit a blog like this, it’s easy to think that it has been a straightforward journey for me, to get to where I am now. The truth is, it wasn’t. What follows is a look at my discovery of personal development and what you can learn from it.
The Old Me
If you would have known me before I took this path, my passion for video games was the closest I got to the idea of personal development: I was drawn to the precision and reflexes of shooters, the complexity and speed of strategy games, and the social aspects and coordination of games like World of Warcraft. As a result, I spent a lot of time playing and streaming games to become a better gamer.
While this earned me some achievements in the virtual world, those didn’t transfer to the real world. I met my girlfriend at the time in 2014 and moved in with her in march 2017. She cheated on me one month later and unbeknownst to me, our breakup marked the beginning of my personal development journey.
How It All Began
On the day of the breakup I talked to a new friend of mine on Skype, and by pure chance, he mentioned a podcast by Jocko Willink. Having had nothing else to do that evening, I decided to check out his YouTube channel and after liking the first video and watching many more, something in my mind clicked. Previously I often wanted to change aspects of my life, but every time something prevented me from turning these wishes into actions. Through Jocko’s podcast, I finally understood what held me back: Excuses!
I discovered that I was making excuses for many things I wanted to do, like exercising, eating healthy, losing weight, and studying more. When I wanted to buy new running shoes, I found excuses about why I didn’t need to: I told myself that I was fit enough, that I didn’t need more endurance, that the shoes would cost too much money … the list was never-ending. While I had bought into those excuses for years, I started to change. Buried under those excuses was the truth: I actually wanted to start running, exercising, eating healthy, and more. I realized that even though I’ve told myself many times, that the way I had lived my life up until that moment was congruent with what I wanted – it wasn’t. I wanted more out of life, I expected more of myself, but was unable to live up to my own expectations.
The cause for this was simple: I believed most of my own excuses. Luckily shortly thereafter I watched another video from Jocko, carrying a message that connected with me: Whatever you want to do, there is one smallest step that you can take. So, take that step… and then… take another step… and another.. and another.
The Day I Took Action
A few days later, a thought crossed my mind: “Actually… what would be the first step to buy new running shoes?” Even though I recognized my old excuses to not even consider that thought, I had a simple answer: “To look up which shop sells running shoes.” After procrastinating for a bit I decided to look that up. This was the first step. One additional step led to another and through many more, each accompanied by several excuses, I bought running shoes and went running the very same day. I had stopped believing my excuses.
Afterward, I thought to myself: “Damn! That was easier than I thought!” It was in that moment that I realized something important: “So, what held me back all this time? I bought all those excuses that I have told myself…” It made me curious about: “How many more excuses do I tell myself every day?” I thought about that and decided to challenge myself: I wanted to do a workout every single morning, go running every second day and pay close attention to my excuses. So, I downloaded a workout app and went to bed.
Waking up the next morning I recognized “them”. They tried to keep me in bed and tried to hold me back from doing what I wanted to do: Excuses trying to prevent me from working out. Even though it was a struggle, I didn’t let them. I got out of bed, opened the app, and half asleep, not having exercised in over ten years, completed my first workout.
A New Realization
I had beaten my excuses and felt exhilarated. I had caught a glimpse of my potential and it began to reveal to me that maybe, just maybe, I could be able to do all the things I wanted to – One of which was to work out regularly. Behind all the excuses trying to prevent that like that I looked good enough, that I didn’t have the time, and that I could injure myself, was a desire to actually work out. So I challenged myself to repeat working out the next morning.
100 days later I had never skipped a workout for a single day. Additionally, I had been running every second day for the same duration. No matter the time, the weather, the excuses, or circumstances – sometimes working out as early as 4:30 AM and sometimes going for a run as late as 11:45 PM in the pouring rain. I had done what I considered myself incapable of doing. What had been a long time coming happened shortly thereafter: I got injured and was forced to take a break. But I had learned one important lesson: I had proof that I was able to push through my excuses, rationalizations, and reasons for why I didn’t want to, couldn’t, or didn’t need to pursue what I really wanted. This realization changed how I responded to challenges and slowly opened another door…
The Book That Changed My Life
“You know, there’s a good book I’ve read recently; it’s called Tools of Titans.”, my friend told me in the summer of 2017. Having experienced the profound effects of Jocko Willink’s podcasts and becoming disciplined, checking out this book was a no-brainer. Author Tim Ferriss compiled insightful answers to the fascinating question of how people became successful. Through reading it I learned many lessons, two of which had a profound impact on my life:
First, I developed an understanding of how many people become successful without going down the traditional path of high school into college into 9-to-5 into retirement. A concept that I hadn’t questioned before. Second, I’ve learned a lot about new strategies and tools to live the life I wanted. I didn’t need to go down the traditional path that I followed unwittingly for the past 26 years. Tools of Titans opened the door to previously unknown possibilities – for the first time in my life, I realized that the choice of what I wanted to do with my life was truly mine.
For the first time, I asked myself open-mindedly where my life was going: Was it in tune with my goals and desires? Surprisingly, I didn’t have an answer. Upon further thinking I realized: I had no clear vision for my future at all. Instead, I had simply been going along with what seemed safe and reasonable, without ever asking myself if that was what I really wanted.
Feeling lost, I decided to pursue the one thing that I had developed a passion for after reading Tools of Titans: To work on myself, to grow, and learn. Without being aware of it myself, this passion was something I always had in me: I played competitive video games with the goal to improve. I strove for excellent grades when I didn’t have to, and when 90% of students didn’t even read assigned texts, I not only read, summarized, and highlighted them but also took pages of notes. The missing link: I never applied this mindset to the way I lived my life as a whole. That changed.
As I started to apply this mindset to my life, I began meditating, read daily, signed up for a gym, ran regularly, ate healthily, and doubled down on my efforts for university. My goal was to improve – and that, I did. Slowly but surely, I began to tread on the path of improvement.
Signs of Doubt
As I learned, read, and tried myself out, I felt like my life had suddenly become great: In reality, this feeling came from doing all the things I always wanted to do: I ate healthily, exercised, tripled down on studying, and read a ton of books. I didn’t do all these things before because I had convinced myself to be a person that didn’t need to eat healthily, wasn’t in need of exercise, and content with my sleep schedule (getting up as late as 12 AM sometimes). Any time I felt that this was not true with my what I really felt, I quickly buried these true feelings under a vast amount of excuses and rationalizations which kept me in my status quo. After I started doing them, progress quickly became visible and the amount of discipline needed to maintain this process steadily decreased. I was becoming more and more productive by the day and felt a lot better about my direction in life.
After some time I realized that my deep passion for self-development started to outshine my passion for my studies. I became deeply conflicted. “Should I quit university after all those years to follow my newly found passion?” Of course, that was a stupid idea … right?! Without a clear answer, my motivation for studying took a nosedive. For two months I wrestled with the question of where I wanted to take my life. As I thought and wrote about this, I concluded that self-development was my real passion and that I wanted to share it with others. University didn’t fit that plan.
So, around New Year’s eve 2017 I sat down with my friend for a beer, pondering the question of where to go and what to do with my life. During our conversation, he asked me a simple question: “What do you want to do in life?” Without hesitation, I replied: “Help others!” He smiled. “You know you can do that without quitting uni, right?”
I went silent for a moment, dumbstruck by this simple observation. I realized that I had needlessly backed myself into a corner: I had thought about this problem as an either-or decision. I completely disregarded that I could go down both paths simultaneously. My plan was to put in the work for uni, while continuously working on myself. I also started to think about how could I share what I had learned with others.
In January of 2018, I put my thoughts on paper and outlined how I wanted to achieve my goals, and more importantly, why I wanted to achieve those goals. Armed with a purpose, a plan, discipline, and knowledge from countless self-development resources, I started to set up a blog to share what I’ve learned with the world. From January until the end of April this vision became more defined with the help of Jordan Peterson’s Self-Authoring Suite.
As a result, those months turned into some of the most productive months ever: I woke up early, worked hard for university and my blog, read more, learned more, exercised regularly, and tried new things. The days flew by. The amount of knowledge I had gathered that I wanted to share with the world increased every day. It seemed like everything was coming together when I had a really stupid idea.
A Stupid Idea
I had a long time problem: I felt uncomfortable in clubs. For years I haven’t been an outgoing person at all, often felt awkwardly out of place, and didn’t enjoy my time at parties. I always wanted to change this and as all other parts of my life were progressing nicely, I decided it was finally time to become more social – becoming more comfortable in clubs seemed like a good first step.
So, over the course of some weeks, I went out at least three nights a week, woke up late and tired, and did it all over again. After a couple of months, I even felt at home in clubs… so, success! Right?
Another Stupid Idea…
Nope! One morning I woke up and thought: “FUCK! I have uni deadlines!” Indeed, I had to turn in some paperwork, and partying certainly hadn’t helped that. I canceled all events and sat down for 12-hour days for two weeks. After turning in those papers I felt exhausted and came up with another great idea: “Let’s take a break from uni for a week! What’s the worst that can happen?” Who would have guessed? One week turned into 4 weeks and soon I was far behind.
Not only that – partying often and staying up late messed up my sleep schedule and derailed my routines and habits. Suddenly I gave in to excuses to skip going to the gym “today” (or tomorrow… ah, who am I kidding: the whole week!) and fell off my path completely. Additionally, my father being brought into a hospital, an hour before my heart had been broken by a girl I loved left me in a really bad spot.
At this point, I didn’t care about sharing what I had learned anymore. I stopped working out, stopped my meditation, cold showers, and journaling routines, and found no motivation to work on my blog or anything else for that matter. I lost my purpose.
The Feeling of Purpose
To top it all off, I had to work on the weekend, which, instead of making the situation worse, turned out to be the best thing that could have happened – I made myself a promise. No matter how heartbroken I was or how miserable my situation seemed: I would make everyone’s day. So I did. Even though I felt sad and exhausted, I made everyone enjoy their time at work. People came to me with an expression that left one wondering why they hadn’t written “FUCK MY LIFE – I HAVE TO WORK ON WEEKENDS” on their forehead – they left with a high five and a big smile. Through these interactions I reignited my purpose, I felt the impact that simple day-to-day actions had on others and why I had decided to go down this path in the first place.
Over the weekend I wrote down what was going wrong, why it was going wrong, and what I needed to do to fix it. It was a long list, but I felt confident to tackle it one by one, one day at a time. So that’s what I did: I started incredibly small and worked myself up from there. My time studying increased from five minutes each day, to four hours a day one month later. I reintroduced my morning and evening routines, set up a regular workout schedule, and fought my way back on my path. In the span of a few weeks, I was back at it. My routines were going strong, I made great progress in all important areas of my life. I even wrote 1/3 of my 9-month master thesis in one month!
Back on the Path
That was when I decided to take up blogging again to further my mission of helping others to reach their potential, but when I read the articles I had written in January, I realized they lacked structure and direction, so I scrapped what I had and started over. I read books about how to write (who would have guessed I had to learn that, after writing uni papers for my whole adult life) and devised a plan to get my blog online. Countless failed drafts, hours upon hours of reading and research, writing and rewriting, planning and communicating lead to what you are reading now.
Of course, these blog posts are only a small glimpse at my journey and what I’ve learned along the way. I didn’t get to where I am alone. I had great mentors like Tim Ferriss, Jocko Willink, Jordan Peterson, Joe Rogan, Gary Vaynerchuck, and others, who taught me most of what I know.
On my journey, I’ve learned a lot, and while I am still learning, I want to share which tools, mindsets, ideas, and strategies helped me so far, so they can help you, too. Whether you read an article about how to become disciplined which helps you go to the gym regularly, or how gratitude helps you appreciate more of life, or why a purpose helps you prioritize and many more: My mission is that you’ll eventually be able to visit this blog whenever you feel stuck, have a problem or want to improve and find something of value.