As I turn 33, I only have one question: “How the hell did I make it here?!”
All joking aside, while there’s plenty to go in my life, it’s fun to pause, reflect, and smile on the decisions that brought me here today.
Because the brutal truth is the life I have now would be impossible if it wasn’t for several turning points: Moments where I gave up the life I was previously living and committed to something that changed my trajectory. From then on, my personality, habits, goals, and more changed and could never go back.
“A mind that is stretched by a new experience can never go back to its old dimensions.”
— Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.
Here are the biggest turning points that lead to a lifestyle I love—and I hope they’ll serve you too.
1. Learning how to talk to strangers
To say “I used to be shy” is an understatement. I never asked out a single girl until I was in my 20s and I couldn’t talk to people I didn’t know.
By senior year of college, something had to change. I couldn’t go my entire fucking life terrified to talk to people I didn’t know so I created a challenge for myself: For 90 days, I forced myself to talk to at least one random stranger every day. Then, I would take notes on every conversation, analyzing how it went and what I could do better.
It was painful. It was embarrassing. It was uncomfortable. To make matters worse, I had body image issues because I was short, skinny, and covered with acne.
Yet 90 days later, I became a new person.
From that moment on, I could talk to anyone and it transformed countless areas of my life. For example, by learning how to build rapport with strangers, I made a lot of new friends. Rather than relying on luck—or just clinging on to previous friends—I could meet people all the time, which created new opportunities and adventures.
Also, my “soft” skills skyrocketed. Communication, connection, rapport, listening, empathy—all of the things that make up the “human touch” improved by sheer volume. This came in handy with everything from networking, sales, dating, and more.
If you struggle to talk and connect with people you don’t know, trust me, this skill can revolutionize your life. While there are a lot of conversation tips, my best tip is just to force yourself to do it consistently—the more you do it, the better you’ll get.
2. Changing my body
To say “I used to be skinny” is an understatement: I was the skinniest kid in my entire grade of all genders. I didn’t set foot inside a gym until college and, even then, I didn’t know what the hell I was doing.
It wasn’t until I was 22 when I decided to get stronger and, more importantly, gain weight. So with absolutely no fitness knowledge, I started following an old school powerlifting workout and forced myself to eat. (I even tried drinking a gallon of milk every day, which was as pleasant as you’d imagine.)
In the years after, I gained over 30 pounds (13.6kg), lifted a solid amount of weight, improved my cardio, and looked better in my clothes.
Little did I know that it would transform everything else in my life too.
It taught me the power of consistency. It gave me confidence from proving I could achieve my goals and shatter my comfort zones. And as I learned every single thing I could, it led to my career in fitness and later becoming a fitness expert for places like Men’s Health, GQ, and Esquire.
Changing your body will change your life like no other. Sure, you don’t need to build yourself like an NFL player, but if you’re struggling with your health and fitness, do what you can to improve it—it will create an amazing domino effect.
3. Learning to love reading
“I have never let my schooling interfere with my education.”
— Mark Twain
I used to hate reading. Why? Because I hated school. By the time I graduated from college, I promised myself I’d never read again.
Yet by the time I moved to South Korea to teach English, I was so starved for English that I walked into a bookstore, found a very small section of English books, and grabbed the first one that looked interesting.
It turned out to be the first “self-help” book I ever read.
Since then, I've read hundreds of books and it led to a lifestyle of reading and learning.
But it's only now that I realize how important reading has been in my life. I can't know everything myself; without reading, the only knowledge I’d have would be based on my limited experience and whatever I saw in my immediate social and family circle.
And that just wouldn’t cut it.
“If you haven’t read hundreds of books, you are functionally illiterate, and you will be incompetent, because your personal experiences alone aren’t broad enough to sustain you.”
— General Jim Mattis
As Ayodeji Awosika would say, books are a “cheat code” to life—it gives all the answers and upgrades without actually having to struggle yourself.
4. Taking the leap
Here’s are some of the biggest decisions I’ve made in the past 10 years:
- Moving to Taipei, Taiwan to find a job (I found one and stayed for 7 months before quitting)
- Moving to Sydney, Australia to start an internship at an investment bank (I decided, packed, and left in 1 month)
- Quitting my finance career and becoming a fitness coach in 2 months
- Moving from Los Angeles to Denver (I decided, packed, and left in 2 weeks)
- Selling everything, leaving the US, and moving to Europe (I decided, packed, and left in 2 months)
There’s more, but if you look closer at each moment, the underlying message behind each one was simple:
Take the leap and don’t waste time.
When I found an opportunity, I jumped on it as fast as I could. And from the time I decided to the time I did it, I did it in just a few weeks—even if that meant packing up all my possessions, throwing it into a car, and driving through a blizzard.
And if I didn’t take those leaps, I wouldn’t have the life I have today.
I’ve noticed many people hold on tightly to their current life, even if it’s unsatisfying. They worry about all the people who might “depend” on them (but who really don’t). They overthink all the steps involved. They wonder if life would be better or worse if they made the leap.
In the end, they don’t act and nothing changes. Worse, years go by wondering “what if.” Eventually, they get so entrenched in that unsatisfying life that it becomes impossible to change.
That, however, is not a turning point.
Remember: One year of your life is no fucking joke. One month of your life is no fucking joke.
Yet the beautiful thing about taking the leap is, once you do, you’ll unlock experiences, situations, and lessons that would've been impossible if you didn't make that jump. And after learning new things and meeting new people, you’ll never go back to being your previous self. As Daniel Gilbert, Professor of Psychology at Harvard University and author of Stumbling on Happiness wrote:
“…once we have an experience, we cannot simply set it aside and see the world as we would have seen it had the experience never happened… Our experiences instantly become part of the lens through which we view our entire past, present, and future, and like any lens, they shape and distort what we see. This lens is not like a pair of spectacles that we can set on the nightstand when we find it convenient to do so but like a pair of contacts that are forever affixed to our eyeballs with superglue.”
Life will be forever changed. And that is a turning point.
5. Getting advice from the right people
When I was younger, my parents—like many parents—gave me a lot of unsolicited advice. I’m sure they meant well, but I quickly realized that if I followed their advice, I’d end up exactly like them.
Yes, they had “more experience” than me, but they only had more experience being them and getting the results they got. And I knew I didn’t want to have anything remotely close to the life they lived.
“Never ask advice of someone with whom you wouldn’t want to trade places.”
So to learn and grow in my life, I reached out to hundreds of people to learn. When I wanted to become a strength coach, I emailed and called dozens of coaches. When I transitioned to writing, I talked to dozens of writers. Etc.
Because they were actually doing the things I wanted to do, the advice was relevant, practical, and powerful—they were able to save me years of wasted effort or making avoidable mistakes and figuring everything alone.
Whatever path you want in life, there are hundreds of thousands of people more advanced, experienced, and successful than you. Humble yourself and learn from them. Email them. Call them. Meet them in person. Ask good questions and, for the love of God, follow up and keep them in the loop with how their advice helped them.
“The more I read, the more I acquire, the more certain I am that I know nothing.”
6. Moving forward from my traumas
Over the past few years, I spent a lot of time working through a lot of repressed emotions and pain from a traumatic childhood.
Journaling was a savior for me. I wrote hundreds and hundreds of pages to undercover and process all kinds of things to help me understand it. By seeing it on paper and organizing it, it helped me clarify my thoughts and feelings. Putting it on paper helped me “get it off my chest” and freed up my headspace, rather than feeling like I was carrying it in my mind.
I felt worse before I started feeling better, but it made sense: I had about 30 years of pain buried deep within.
But that was just the beginning. Because I had to eventually let go of the trauma and move forward with my life. It’s helpful to get all those emotions out in the open, but once I do, it’s important to ask: “How do I want to think about these memories?”
What’s the story I want to tell about them?
I know people, however, who get stuck in the previous step: They spend their time trying to fix the past and change things that already happen. Worse, years go by and they’re still in that same step.
But they can never fix it. Why?
Because the past is gone. The past is fiction. The past takes on more meaning of the present than it does of the past.
“…people misremember their own pasts by recalling that they once thought, did,
and said what they now think, do, and say. This tendency to fill in the holes in our memories of the past with material from the present is especially powerful when it comes to remembering our emotions.”
— Daniel Gilbert
By changing how you feel now, you’ll change the past. That’s why the last step is to move forward with life. As Dr. Ben Hardy would say, if you aren’t moving forward, you’re “emotionally stuck:”
“You may continue to develop mentally and cognitively, such as learning from books and school. You could have a head full of facts and knowledge, which are easily acquired in an information world. But emotionally, you are stone. You are frozen at the same level you were when you got hurt…
An easy way to examine your level of emotional maturity is how often you step outside of your comfort zone. If it’s rare to put yourself into the vulnerable position of not knowing the answers or how things will turn out, then you likely have trauma from your past that is holding you hostage — emotionally — and stopping you from fully developing your potential as a person.”
I know a lot of people who live their life in a time capsule. Every single thing is basically the same as it was 2, 5, or even 10 years ago.
But if things around you aren’t changing, it means you aren’t changing.
But if you want to change—and realize a turning point—the things around you must be different. And you need to move past your traumas.
7. Following the omens
Here’s a “meta” question: With each turning point I listed above, how did I actually decide to take the turning point?
Deciding to talk to people or gain muscle, I simply hit the point where the pain of my current life outweighed the pain of doing what it took to change it.
But for other things, I just followed the omens.
One of my favorite books is The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho. And in it, the central theme is simple:
“When you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it.”
I believe if you have a specific, burning goal, life will tell you what to do. Life will show you the path. A certain conversation. A certain moment. A chance encounter. Something will come on your path and show you where to go and build off everything that came before.
Years ago, I visited Denver for the first time to meet a fitness mentor I randomly started emailing years prior. One morning, I walked into a local coffee shop and started a conversation with two random strangers while standing in line. We chatted for a few hours and eventually exchanged information and decided to keep in touch.
Two months later, they offered me an opportunity to stay with them for a few weeks to look around for apartments. I took them on their offer, we eventually became neighbors, and I ended up living in Denver for five wonderful years.
When life gives you these opportunities, they don't come every day.
Take them and they can transform everything.
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