Year One of Love First

A retrospective on the first year of “going Love First” as a new way of life.

Faruk Ateş
Dec 19, 2018 · 8 min read

A year ago I hit my rock bottom and had what I’ve been calling my “spiritual awakening” of Love First. Over the course of an evening-long trance-like state, all of the ideas, dreams and passions I had in my life converged with my interests and skills, and culminated into an audacious idea and massive new chapter of my life. The heart of this idea — that we are our best selves whenever we act through a specific and holistic lens of love, first, and subsequently earn our best results in all areas of life — unpacked into ambitious plans for a blog, a book, a podcast and videos and storytelling events and so, so much more.

This idea felt both thought-provoking and healing; a solution to a great deal of suffering we inflict upon ourselves while also a bridge across the many great divides in our society. It could help us love ourselves and therefore others, teach us to become more authentic and therefore confident, and give us greater belief and therefore the strength and capacity for change. And it would do it all through storytelling, bringing us back to the roots of all civilizations: our primordial form of education that connects us and helps us understand each other. It would benefit people as individuals while simultaneously building stronger social bonds between us all, as we tell each other the stories of our lives and life lessons.

I was filled with excitement and enthusiastically started posting and publishing and creating videos and planning and tracking and… then found out that I was experiencing a manic episode.


Induced by the Prozac I’d been taking to help stave off the massive depression I had spiraled into, the mania was calling everything into question. Not only did this revelation cast a massive shadow over the awesome new chapter of my life I had so enthusiastically found, or the very idea of Love First itself, it forced me to question my every move, as the mania rendered every thought or belief unreliable.

For the next few months I detoxed from the Prozac and slowly returned to normalcy. I then pieced together what parts of Love First were real and what parts where manic and questionable. Fortunately, the ideas of Love First were all founded on legitimate science and research from across the fields of psychology, physiology, sociology and more, and the ideas I had about how to bring this to the world and what I would do with my life were ambitious, but perfectly reasonable. It was really just the time scale in which I imagined accomplishing all of what I had envisioned that was… well, manically insane. I thought I’d do it all in 1.5 to 2 years, that ‘seemed reasonable’ at the time. But, ehh…

Love First is not just an idea. It’s the story of an idea, and that story will be 18 years in the making. At least on my part.

I’ve committed to dedicating my life to this mission for at least that long, because I believe in it and I want to see every part of this wildly ambitious plan through. It also fits well with how my life has gone so far. The first 18 years were growing up in The Netherlands, a most formative childhood and unconventional education full of creativity and curiosity. The second 18 years were my career in technology and design, which I stumbled into due to my passion for writing and storytelling. Through many exciting jobs and achievements in that time I accumulated the skills, the reputation, and the network of people that now serve as a perfect foundation for me to pursue this dream.

I am Faruk, I am here, and I am ready for the third chapter of my life.

Year One of Going Love First

On January 1st, 2018 I started formally and intentionally living my life by consciously and intentionally practicing acting through the lens of love, first.

This means that I would love as abundantly as possible, starting with myself. Self-love, meaning the unconditional acceptance of the self and one’s worthiness of love and belonging, felt increasingly hard to do for a number of reasons. But it’s the first and most important step to take, because love and self-love is not the reward we earn by achieving our goals; we don’t “get clearance” to love ourselves by accomplishing something great, no, it starts with loving ourselves.

It meant that not only would I be honest with others, which I did to the best of my abilities already, but I would be honest with myself. That was a hard change in some ways, but the reckonings that followed were made possible because I also embraced vulnerability, making myself sit in the discomfort of uncomfortable truths. This path led me to becoming much more authentic, and that authenticity — powered by increasing amounts of love — led me to connect much more deeply with my core and with others.

I committed to sharing a story of my life with someone every single day, and that has been a sea change in my interactions with others.

Through all of these conscious practices, along with various other guiding principles that form the scaffolding of Love First as a new way of life, I started rewiring my brain into better “defaults.” I became much less reactionary, and much more emotionally resilient, and so much of the anxiety and stress of year one of the Trump administration dissipated. I started understanding and communicating my needs much more effectively. Relatedly, I started having a more “Love First” style of interpretation to whatever people would do or say, and it led to much more harmonious times spent with others.

One particularly notable change in my life as a result of this new daily mindset and the associated practices was a massive spike in serendipity. I thought to myself, “I need some training in email marketing for this work,” and the next day I get directly invited by a guy I’d met only once to his free workshop on email marketing. I could easily write a thousand-word article just about the many serendipitous experiences I’ve had, but since this remains an unquantifiable metric I’m leaving it as a noteworthy entry. For those who’ve gone to Burning Man and had wildly serendipitous experiences on the playa, I will say this though: my life has become like that, but 24/7.

Over the course of this first year of going Love First, many of my wildest dreams have come true, and many of my newer and more ambitious dreams are starting to feel attainable. Where a year ago I was in my personal rock bottom, today I am living my best life, being my best self, and am full of excitement (again) for what lies ahead.

But this time, I know it’s not the mania that is making me buzz with enthusiasm.

Mistakes and what I’ve learned

This year has been far from perfect. In the aftermath of the manic episode, I crawled into a shell with my online voice, and became afraid of publishing… anything. I hired a professional high performance coach to help me sort out the mess of pieces that was Love First and get clarity on my goals with it, but I started over-planning and trying to “be perfect,” and I was struggling with getting Love First off the ground — until I had a reckoning, far later than I should have. In all my planning and preparing and not publishing anything, I was not adhering to several of the guiding principles. Most notably, I wasn’t embracing vulnerability (#3), and I was trying to make everything perfect, which goes against principle 19 which literally reads, Don’t Be Perfect. A year of Love First, and very little actually published. That changes here and now.

Funny aside: I spent more time trying to refine, rework, and come up with the perfect name for principle 19 than I did for all of the other guiding principles combined. Talk about an irony of facepalms! (Yes, that’s their collective noun.)

That reckoning was one of many times where applying my own framework of 21 guiding principles to whatever I struggled with, solved the struggle in question. Hey, at least it works, right?

There were also moments throughout the year that I wasn’t acting through the lens of love, first. On the many smaller occasions that wasn’t such a big deal — we’re all flawed, hence Don’t Be Perfect — but on one particular occasion, I acted through a lens of ego and pettiness way ahead of love, and it nearly cost me one of my most valued friendships. A handful of friendships have soured as the result of my failures to live up to these standards I’d set for myself, and while I don’t yet know how, I hope to one day repair them and restore balance.

But the biggest thing I learned over the past year is that this idea, this rambunctious story of an idea of Love First, will not let itself be defined by myself alone. And that’s a good thing.

I’m just here to kick it off; I’m here to start this story. I never intended to be the one to finish it, because the story of Love First is not about my life stories. Yes, I’ll be using my stories to illustrate the guiding principles, and establish the scaffolding of this new way of life by way of example. But ultimately I am just one man with just one life’s stories. A half-white half-brown cis male atheist bisexual polyamorous immigrant high-school drop-out.

They’ll be fun stories, sure enough, but my life lessons could never encompass everyone’s. So this is where it starts, and these are the principal stories, but over time, as the principles and scaffolding get explained and the whole notion of “what Love First is” crystallizes, we’ll be opening up to everyone’s life stories. Because everyone struggles with things in their life, and it is those stories, the stories of how we overcome our struggles and what we learned from them, that can elevate all those around us. Those are the stories that humanize and connect us on a deeper level. Those are the stories that make us interesting and fascinating and unique individuals.

Those are the stories worth telling.

There isn’t anyone you couldn’t love once you’ve heard their story.

— Mary Lou Kownacki

Welcome to Love First.

While I’m still busy preparing, I am organizing a workshop on personal storytelling in San Francisco on December 30th. It will introduce the practices of the first five principles of Love First and how they relate to building your authenticity and confidence, and teach you the foundations of telling great, personal stories:

Love First

A Mindset For The Future

Faruk Ateş

Written by

Comedian, story coach, time traveler (in reverse). #LoveFirst • I help people unlock the power of their story.

Love First

A Mindset For The Future