The Art of Being Remarkable
There are a few things in life that can change the trajectory of a life. And this book right here did just that for me. I wrote it over a year and a half ago. But it feels like I’ve written it more than ten years ago. I don’t even remember what I wrote in that book.
So many things have happened in my life since then. Many good things. And many bad things.
It was the book I wanted to write. A book I knew wouldn’t become a best seller. I knew I wouldn’t sell thousands of copies of it. And I didn’t. But it was a book I wanted to write. Just like all the other books I wrote since then.
For me, it was a transformative book. As I said I don’t really remember what is in there, but I’m sure it’s good. Really good. Back then when I wrote it I thought this was the best piece of work I’ve ever put out there.
And that’s exactly what I thought about the next book I wrote. And then the next one.
Many people say that if you’re not embarrassed by what you did in the past you’re not making progress. I don’t feel embarrassed. Simply because I’ve put out so much more work in those one and a half years that I don’t recall what’s in that book and what’s not…
There are these days where I feel like I’m wasting my entire life away. When I get out of bed and I don’t feel like I did sleep at all. Instead, everything feels heavy. My body feels heavy. My thoughts feel heavy. Everything feels heavy. Everything feels like a burden. And when I get outside to grab a coffee, everybody seems to be enjoying the show. Everybody seems busy. Everybody is rushing from one thing to the next.
Where is everybody heading to? I don’t know.
Without realizing what’s going on around us we rush through our lives. We’re rushing our lives away. With no clear destination. Without knowing where to go. No clear purpose. We are OK as long as we have everything we need. A good job. A decent salary. A nice car. A beautiful home. A good looking partner. And so on. And then, at one point it hits you. Like that big guy in that bar. He punches you right in the face. You faint. And when you wake up you realize that you’ve outsourced your entire life. You let everybody else do the work for you. Everybody else is living the life. Having fun. While you’re just watching.
You start to realize that all the TV shows you watched are actually pretty damn boring. It’s just people living their lives. A life you could have lived yourself, if you didn’t waste it watching someone else living their life. It could have been an exciting life. Imagine. You as a drug dealer. Or a bad ass lawyer. Or a doctor saving lives. Special detectives solving crimes. Ahhh. What a life! A life just like the one they show on TV. The only difference is that it’s not your life.
And then you start to realize that all the blogs and books you read from all of the brilliant minds out there are just a way for you to escape reality. To escape from having to live your own life. To not only dream the dream. To actually live the dream. To be the dream. A life full of adventures. Of travel. Of excitement. But also a life full of failure. Of disappointment. Of breakups. Of setbacks. Of getting back up. Of loving your life. But you prefer the safety of your cubicle. The comfort of your home.
Think about your book instead. Think about your book of life. Think about your own story. Think about the book about how you built those twenty schools in Africa. On how you started a movement that changed the world. On how you fought for that girl for ten years and finally ended up marrying her.
But that’s just too damn hard. You refer to read about all of these amazing things from the comfort of your living room. From the safety of your couch. Until you start to realize that all of these inspiring videos you watched for hours and hours are all about you running away from your true inner self. From the self that could have done the exact same thing. The self that has the potential to inspire thousands of people. The self that is able to change people’s lives. The entire world. Instead you just stare at screens, drink all sorts of fancy drinks that keep you up all night while you work a mind numbing job that sucks all the energy out of you.
And that’s when it finally hits you. You start to realize that you outsourced your entire life. But it’s not just you. It’s everybody else around you, too. While you sit on the couch with that bag of chips, a glass of red wine or an ice cold beer you start to realize that the storyline somehow sucks. That your entire story sucks.
Whatever you do, try to always make sure that your storyline doesn’t suck. And if it does, change the plot. Change the entire story. You can do whatever the fuck you want. It’s your story. It’s your life. I know it’s tough but that’s the only way. Bring in new characters. Let old characters die. After all, you only have that one story to tell. That one big story made out of many small stories that at the end of your days should tell a beautiful story.
Make sure it’s the best story ever told. Make it the most memorable story ever told in human history. Make it a story full of success. Of failure. Of happiness. Of disappointment. Of laughter. Of people crying. Of people smiling. And then add some more of it. Start writing your own story. Start shooting your own movie. Live a life worth broadcasting. Worth writing a book about. Be that guy or gal that saves people’s lives. That inspires everybody to do the same. Be the main character. Be the hero. Don’t waste your time watching other people living their lives. Don’t let other people be the heroes of your story. Be the one that makes other people laugh. Be the one that cries. Be the one that laughs. That celebrates. That fails. That gets back up. That succeeds. Be the one that lives a life.
The world is waiting for you to figure out your story. Your life and yourself. Take as much time as you need to create that story. To adapt it. To change it. To tweak it. Find your passion. Be yourself. And then get started. Get out there and start telling your story. Get your gift out there and start changing as many people’s lives as possible. Unlock human potential. Inspire others to find their gift. Inspire people to tell their stories. But most importantly, be yourself. Always. And then you can start to take over the world. One person at a time..
He was shaking all over his body. He looked very scared. He was very nervous. You could see the fear in his eyes. His eyes were reflecting his death. He was dying little by little. Minute by minute. He was trying to hide something. From me. From all of us. From the entire world. He wanted to hide the fact that something was wrong. He had a disorder that could never be cured. It could only be treated. But never cured. The disorder is called Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). 5% of the population has it. Maybe I have this as well. I don’t know. Sometimes I feel like doing hundreds of things at the same time and then I end up doing nothing at all. Apparently ADHD is a brain disorder that makes you want to run around, jump around (OK I exaggerate a bit here) and do all sorts of things, instead of focusing on the one thing you should be focusing on.
When I asked him whether or not he had ADHD he said “yes”. I asked him why he was trying to hide it. He didn’t answer. So I went on. “If you feel like running around on stage, run around on stage. If you feel like jumping around, jump around. If this makes you feel more comfortable. If this is you. If this is what you want to do, then just do it. Don’t try to stand there acting like nothing is going on. Like nothing is wrong. While in reality you feel like dying every second that you have to stand still.” I should maybe have mentioned that this was a presentation training. Probably his first presentation in front of a large crowd.
I don’t know why, but when I told him all of this I had to think about the first presentation training I got. It was my first and last. The guy doing it told me to stand still. All the time. And to not walk around. That I should barely move my hands because this distracts the audience. If you’ve ever seen me on stage, you might know that I’m not doing any of this. I’m not standing still at all. I’m walking around like a crazy person. During a one hour talk I probably cover a distance of 5 kilometers. Maybe more. And I’m using my hands. A lot. If you didn’t know that I was currently giving a talk you might think that I was about to drown. That’s how much and how fast I move my arms around. All. The. Time.
But why didn’t I listen to the advice I got about 7 years ago? Because that’s just not me. It doesn’t feel right. I feel it. And people feel it. People feel that this is not the true me. The true you. And then you lose your authenticity. You lose your uniqueness. You lose your true self. You probably know what I’m talking about. Think about the last presentation you attended in a corporate environment. You were probably barely able to stay awake. Every time I listened to such a presentation I felt like getting a blanket, a pillow and taking a nap in the back of the room. That’s how much these things suck the energy out of me. And now think about the last TED talk you saw. Totally different story.
And the reason why it’s so different is that corporate folks listen to their bosses. Folks on TED listen to their inner voice. They try to be themselves as much as possible. Authenticity, being yourself and being a real human being (instead of a robot) is what establishes the connection between you and the audience. Between you and other human beings.
The moment you’re trying to ignore your true inner self and your uniqueness, you’ll start to pretty much give up everything that defines you. And that’s a pretty bad thing. Because ever since we “occupy” this planet earth there’s never been another person like you. No one with your mind, your heart, your eyes, your ears, your mouth or your soul. No one will ever say the things like you say them. No one will ever feel the same feelings like you do. No one will have the exact same thought patterns. No one will and no one ever has. And the moment you give up everything that defines you and try to hide who you really are, the moment you try to become like everybody else, but you’ll lose your competitive edge. You exchange uniqueness for sameness. And from now on you’ll be swimming in a large pool of people that are all the same. That are replaceable. From now on you’ll be like everybody else. From now on you’ll be competing with 7bn people. From now on you’ll be competing with everybody else that’s trying to be like everybody else.
And to me, that’s a game you can only lose. A game that will at one point lead you to loosing faith in yourself. So instead ignore everybody else and try to only be in competition with yourself. That’s a lot easier. I guess. Instead of trying to be like everybody else, be yourself and focus on your differences. Display your uniqueness. Celebrate it. And don’t try to hide it. And then build a monopoly around it. Build a monopoly around yourself.
Be like that guy and run around on stage. And feel comfortable about being yourself. Feel good about yourself. And then win the competition. Win in life. Alright. He didn’t win the competition. But everybody loved his talk. Everybody loved his authenticity. His authenticity was touching people’s hearts. I even had the feeling that some people had tears running down their cheeks.
He was working on a technology that would help ADHD patients to focus a lot better. That might change their lives. Everybody’s lives. And when he told everybody that he had ADHD his authenticity resulted in tears running down people’s cheeks. People in the audience were crying. I had tears running down my cheeks. I don’t know about everybody else. Always remember, if you want to run around naked, just do it. If that’s you, if that’s what makes you feel comfortable, then just do it. It will touch people’s hearts. OK, maybe don’t do this. This might be a bit too much. Or not. I don’t know. Just do whatever the fuck you want. Do whatever makes you happy. But most importantly be yourself. And never ever try to be someone you’re not. No matter what..
“The remarkable thing is, we have a choice everyday regarding the attitude we will embrace for that day.” — Charles R. Swindoll
The Art of Being Remarkable will help you to stand out in a crowded world. A world filled with mediocrity. A world where mediocrity has become the norm and being different and standing out is being ridiculed, laughed at and sometimes even punished.
This manifesto is for everybody out there believing that there’s more to this life than this mind numbing 9 to 5 show. It’s for everybody that feels that there’s more to this life than just having a stable job and a secure life. It’s for everybody who doesn’t want to live a life full of mediocrity. It’s for the people who still believe in their dreams. Who are willing to fight for their dreams. Who ultimately want to become their dreams. It’s for everybody willing to change the world. It’s for the entrepreneur who wants to bring humanity to the next level. It’s for the artist who wants to express how beautiful this world is. And for everybody else out there with worthy ambitions to make this world a better place.
Who should read this manifesto
I wrote this book for a small group of people. A group of people that is interested in living a life worth living. A life full of change. A life that doesn’t accept the status quo. A life full of sacrifice to make this world a better place.
It’s for everybody who wants to live life on their own terms, while at the same time improving the life of the people around them. It’s for the people who don’t want to follow someone else’s plan. Who want to follow their own plan instead. It’s for the people who want to venture out into the unknown. To create a new path. So that others can follow. It’s for the people who are willing to fight hard to turn their vision into reality. Who are dead serious about it. Who are not only willing to take a lot, but even more importantly, who are also willing to give a lot and sacrifice a lot. Who are willing to give up a lot of things to turn their vision into reality. It’s for the people who are willing to live a life full of sacrifice. Sacrifice that might ultimately lead them to the one thing we’re all trying to find. Happiness, satisfaction and a purpose in life.
To make it short: it’s for people trying to change the world, the game and its rules.
It’s not going to be easy. That’s for sure. Being yourself and trying to change the world just a tiny little bit will be the toughest thing out there. It doesn’t matter whether you’re an entrepreneur, a painter, a musician, a writer, a poet or an employee that wants to change the status quo. It’s going to be a tough ride. You might lose some of your friends and maybe even your boyfriend (or girlfriend). Or your spouse in case you’re married. You might even lose your job. That’s what you’re getting yourself into when you take the road less traveled. When you take the road to being yourself and becoming remarkable. I’ve gone through most of this myself. And I am still going through a lot of it while writing this.
But the good thing is that you might make new friends with similar ambitions along the way. You might meet a new life partner that will share the same inner fire like you do. That might help and support you. Support you in making your inner fire burn even brighter. Or you might find a new job where you get the support you need and deserve. Or you might start a business that has the potential to change the world. Who knows? It’ll be constant ups and downs. And then at some point you’ll have to go down some more. And then some more. And at one point you’re going to get back up again. Or not. No one is able to predict the future. Maybe you’ll stay there forever.
In case you think that all of this is not for you, that this sounds too damn hard, too risky and you prefer a stable and safe life, you don’t have to worry about it. Not everybody has to be like that. Not everybody needs to believe in and work on their dreams. No one has to be remarkable.
If you think that this is not for you, I advise you to stop reading. It might be a waste of your time. And you might not agree with most of the stuff I’m about to say. It might even make you angry. And you might start to hate me. Maybe you might even feel like punching me right in the face for the stuff I’m about to say. What I’m about to say in the following pages might turn your entire world upside down. And you might not like it. To save both of us sorrow, angry hate mail and time, please stop reading right here and right now.
For the ones who are serious about it, about changing the status quo, about getting their entire world turned upside down, this manifesto is the right thing to read.
It’s going to be a rough ride and a long and lonely road. You’ll constantly be seduced into switching lanes from the dangerous and the road less traveled onto a much safer road. Onto a road that awaits you with a safe life, stability and a secure job. If you don’t want anybody to control your life and tell you what to do, if you don’t want to live someone else’s life and are also willing to sacrifice a lot, then this guide is for you. It will help you get there.
This book is short. Don’t try to read it in one go. If you do, read it again. Over and over. Try to not read more than one chapter a day. Take your time to think and reflect about the things you read. I don’t give answers. You still have to find your answers. My answers might be different. So take your time, don’t read too much, reflect about the things you read and think about how you might apply it to your life. Or do whatever you want to. Read it in one go. And then throw it away. It doesn’t matter. What matters is that you not only consume its content. You need to feel it. Appreciate it. And this takes time. So take your time. Don’t rush..
Who am I?
I’m a totally ordinary guy. I was raised in a middle class family in Munich, Germany. I never had any problems in my childhood. I guess it’s safe to say that I had quite an amazing childhood. I did all sorts of things in the past few years. While writing this, I’m 30 years old. I studied business with electrical engineering in Germany. I lived, studied and worked in Germany, Canada, the US and China. I started my first company in China at the age of 25, failed miserably, came back to Germany and started working at a large corporation for about two years. In the summer of 2013 I quit my well paid job with lots of bonuses and am ever since trying to find my passion and doing the things I love (like writing this manifesto).
I did all sorts of stuff. I did a bike tour through Germany and gave talks at universities about my experiences as an entrepreneur and an employee on the investor side. I traveled through Central and Eastern Europe for three months, only taking buses and trains (covering 8500+km). I executed a few business ideas (that all failed). I write a blog called rethinking the now, which is pretty much my notes to self gone public. I am regular speaker at all sorts of events and conferences in Europe on subjects such as Entrepreneurship, Marketing, Social Media, failure and sometimes even some spiritual stuff. I wrote and published a few books, have a few websites that generate some small passive income. I am constantly trying to reinvent myself and fail almost all the time.
To put it short: I’m trying to keep myself busy, while filling my time with as little “busy time” as possible and as much time as possible to create, to figure myself out and to learn as many new things as possible. I guess it’s safe to say that I’m currently doing the exact same opposite of what my mom wanted me to do. To find a stable job, have a regular and predictable income, settle down and have a family. Unfortunately (or fortunately) I don’t do any of this..
But enough about me for now. If you want to know more about me you can visit my website at http://yanngirard.com. I want to take some time to talk about someone else for a moment. I want to talk a bit more about the person that inspired and influenced me the most.
1. Why do you even get up in the morning?
Today I choose life. Every morning when I wake up I can choose joy, happiness, negativity, pain… To feel the freedom that comes from being able to continue to make mistakes and choices — today I choose to feel life, not to deny my humanity but embrace it. — Kevyn Aucoin
I want to talk a bit more about my mom and her story because she deeply inspired and positively influenced me (and in a way also this book). My mom was not only taking care of my brother and me, but she was also busy helping refugees in my local community. For many years, she helped them to find jobs and to learn German when I was a teenager.
My mom was a refugee herself after World War II. She and her entire family were kicked out of their house. The only thing they were allowed to take with them was one bag full of stuff for the entire family. When my mom and her parents arrived in Germany (they lived in a part that Germany had to give to the Czech Republic after WWII) they had nothing. A lot of people helped them out. For the first few years they lived for free at some random people’s house.
I believe that this experience shaped her life forever. A life that was only possible because of the help of a few caring and helping individuals. I believe that this experience made her this loving, giving and caring person who she still is to this day. The person who shaped so many people’s lives, including mine.
What amazes me the most is that she never even saw her life that way. To her, helping other people was the most natural thing to do. I don’t think she even thought a single second about having any other purpose in life. Without realizing it, she taught me the importance of giving back before one takes too much.
Looking back at how I was raised, the values I grew up with and the sheer endless confidence my mom had in me and other people’s faith made me the person who I am today. Her endless confidence in people must come from the fact that her parents had nothing and were able to build up a life. A confidence that a lot of parents don’t seem to have anymore these days. A confidence they cannot pass on to their children. The confidence that everything is indeed possible.
Not only did I learn a lot about values, integrity, persistence and confidence from my mother, but I also learned a lot about different cultures, people and countries. Many of the people she helped out became good friends of my family. And one of them even became my brother. My adopted brother.
He was born in Algeria and came to Germany when he was in his twenties. He lived with us for many years. He was like a dad to me because my real dad was working in other cities and I only got to see him every few weeks. He’s now a German citizen, lives very close to my mom’s house, has his own business and two wonderful kids. My two nieces.
I guess the experience of growing up with someone from a completely different cultural background, that didn’t really speak German, shaped my life forever. It opened my heart and mind to other nationalities, countries, cultures, people, ways of living and thinking..
2. I’m just a rich kid. Don’t listen to me.
“Those who have the privilege to know have the duty to act.” ― Albert Einstein
I’m a very, very lucky guy. Or fortunate. Call it whatever you want to. I was born in one of the wealthiest countries on this planet. I don’t have to worry about anything anymore. I’m all set for life. I was also lucky enough that my parents had enough money to send me to university. That I was born, grew up and studied in Germany where university is free for everybody. And after university I was lucky enough to find a job that payed me more than enough so I was able to save some money. Money that I used to get started with the stuff I’m doing right now.
And I’m really thankful for all of this. I know that I really was just lucky in life. I didn’t earn it. I didn’t deserve it. I didn’t have to fight hard for anything. I was just at the right place at the right time. I’m sure that my life would have been very different if I was born in India or somewhere in Africa.
Nonetheless, I feel that a lot of people are wasting this privilege. The privilege of having been born in a rich country. Of having the chance to make a difference. To give back. I’m not saying that giving back is restricted to people from rich countries. No, not at all. It’s just that it’s a lot easier to make a difference. Maybe not. Maybe it’s easier to make a difference if you come from a poor country because you know exactly how it works and what it’s all about. I don’t know..
At the end of the day it doesn’t really matter how you make a difference or how you give back, as long as you try. As long as you try to give something back instead of taking all the time.
I also feel that a lot of people really want to make a difference. To give back. I even personally know a few people that want to make a difference. That want to give back. But they always tell me that they feel stuck. That they would love to help out and give back but that they don’t have enough money.
I believe that this is a problem a lot of us have. We’re stuck in an old belief system. A belief system that taught us to take care of ourselves first, especially financially. And only once we made enough money, it’s time to think about everybody else that has less than we have. Unfortunately, the more money we make, the more things we buy. So at the end of the day we will never have enough money or time to give back.
That’s why most of us will never be able to really give anything back. And simply wiring money to some sort of charity every few months to ease our guilty conscience won’t help nobody. This treadmill of really willing to give back, of doing something meaningful, while at the same time our desires to own more and more stuff makes a lot of us very unhappy in the long run.
What I’m saying here is not based on any fancy statistics or anything. It’s based on my own experience. About a year ago, when I felt guilty for taking too much myself, I was looking for a temporary relief and called a few charities to see what I could do. And you know what? Every single charity I called told me that they didn’t need more people. That they had too many volunteers aleady. They didn’t even know what to do with all of them. This got me thinking a lot back then. And for whatever reason also today.
If, at the end of the day, our jobs don’t make us happy and don’t fulfill us, if so many of us still go out and want to help the less fortunate, even after a long days work, why don’t we try to use all our time to give?
If this is what seems to make us happy and fulfilled in life, if the feeling of helping other people is what ultimately makes us humans happy, why not look for more ways to share our privileges? If this is what ultimately makes us happy, why not pursue this happiness more actively and try to build a life around it? A life around what we’re able to give to this world, instead of doing things day in day out that we don’t like.
Many of us have this inner fire burning inside of us. The fire to help other people. To give back. To really make a difference. The answer on how to turn that tiny little fire into a wildfire can only be found deep down inside of you. Ultimately, all of this is the essence of being yourself. That’s the essence of becoming remarkable.
3. How to build your legacy
“Outlive your life!” — Max Lucado
The only reason why I decided to write this short book was because I felt like giving back. Giving back because the experiences I was able to collect didn’t have something to do with anything I achieved in my life. I was just lucky and very fortunate. And I believe that the best way to celebrate your luck, your fortune is to share it with others.
Now don’t get me wrong. I’m still far away from having everything figured out. The more things I figure out, the more I feel like I don’t know anything. Nonetheless, I feel that some of the stuff I experienced and learned over the past few years might be helpful to some people out there. That maybe some people might get something out of it. Just like I got a lot out of it. Maybe it helps people that weren’t as fortunate as I was. Maybe it helps to empower and motivate some of you to go your own way. Maybe it inspires some of you to finally start working on that one thing. Or maybe it simply helps you to take away the fear of the unknown. But whatever this short book does for you, I really hope that it’ll help you with some of the things you’re currently struggling with.
I’m also well aware of the fact that none of this will really help you in any profound way. My answers and questions are different from your answers and questions. Nonetheless, I feel that some of the things in here might push you in the right direction. Or at least help you to not take the wrong exit. After all, all of the answers to your questions are already waiting somewhere hidden deep inside of you. They’re waiting to be discovered. And if this is the only thing you’ll understand once you reached the last page of this manifesto, then you already found all the answers to your questions.
I also feel that this guidebook might be a way to keep my mom’s legacy alive. To maybe even ignite that little fire she started a few decades ago and start turning it into a wildfire. Who knows. This year, my mom will turn 71 years old and I feel that the legacy she started, the legacy of helping other people, of giving back, has to continue, somehow. What she did was something exceptional, especially for me and my own path in life. To me, it was something truly remarkable. To me she is truly remarkable. She’s my role model in life and the only reason why I get up every morning and do the things I do. To maybe one day follow in her footsteps. To make her proud that her legacy continues. The clock is ticking..
4. How to be insanely mediocre
People who are unable to motivate themselves must be content with mediocrity, no matter how impressive their other talents. — Andrew Carnegie
There are a lot of ways to not be remarkable. To be incredibly unremarkable. To be incredibly mediocre. Now don’t get me wrong. Nothing is wrong with being average. Not too long ago I loved being mediocre myself. It gave me the chance to hide between the anonymous masses. But at one point I just got bored of it all. I felt stuck. I wanted to break free. I felt like there was more to this life. That I had more to give. That I had to find a way to unleash my true potential. To find out what I was really capable of doing.
But you know what? A totally average life can still be absolutely amazing. I’m not pushing anyone to do anything. It’s just that some people, like you and me, want more out of this life (that’s at least what I assume as you’re still reading).
A safe job. A wife. A house. A mortgage. Working the same job for 40 years. That’s not what I want. At least not right now. I don’t know what I want in five years. Maybe in five years that’s exactly what I want. Or in ten years. Or maybe next year. I don’t know. I suck at predicting the future.
Here are a few things that will help you to stay incredibly unremarkable:
- You don’t question anything or anyone.
- You attend the same schools like everybody else.
- You do the same internships like everybody else.
- You apply for the same jobs like everybody else.
- You get the biggest mortgage possible, as soon as possible.
- You work the same job for 40+ years.
- You think about starting a company, but never do.
- You think about becoming an artist, but never do.
- You think about writing a book, but never do.
- You think about becoming a painter, but never do.
- You think about learning Chinese, but never do.
- You believe that the only way to become free is to find another job.
And many more things. I guess you get the idea. If all (or some) of these things sound good to you, don’t worry about it. You will still be able to live an amazing life. Doing something conventional, something that everybody else does, is the safer bet anyway. If you feel that all of the above sounds good, feel free to stop reading. Continue reading might be a waste of your time.
On the other hand, if your life currently looks like this and you don’t want to live your life that way anymore, you should continue reading. If you feel stuck and want to get unstuck and want to unleash your true potential this manifesto is definitely for you. If you want more out of this life, if you want to change the world, then this manifesto is for you. It will help you get there.
5. How to get unstuck and unfucked
“People are trapped in history and history is trapped in them.” — James A. Baldwin
Being remarkable is all about being yourself, getting unstuck, unfucked and about unleashing your true potential. The potential that’s currently hidden. That’s waiting to be unleashed. It might be hidden at a shitty job, in a shitty relationship or the prison you built around yourself over the past few years (or decades).
The truth is that no one else but you will be able to unleash your potential. Not your boss. Not your colleagues. Not your friends. Or your family. This is something you need to understand on your path to becoming remarkable. It’s all about you. And no one else. It’s about finding your true inner self. You need to stop waiting for better times.
You need to stop waiting for that pay raise. For that promotion. For the time when you have enough money. For the time when you meet the man or woman of your life. For that time when you completely figured out what you want in this life.
You need to stop waiting for the time when everything works out just fine. This time will never come. You’ll never know what you truly want in this life. And the only way to figure yourself out is to get started. To get started with creating. The longer you wait, the more complex and the more difficult it will get.
Every minute you waste and wait for better times, the corset around your life gets tighter and tighter. Until your mind and body will be so deformed that you can’t live without the corset anymore. You’ll be stuck. Forever.
What you need to do instead is to start searching. You need to start searching for your passion. The one thing you can give to this world. The one thing you can do to change the world. For some people it might be about starting a charity, becoming a motivational speaker, becoming a writer or becoming an entrepreneur that saves people’s lives. For others it might be changing the way their industry works. Or freeing an entire country. It doesn’t matter. As long as you’re not willing to accept the status quo.
And you need to start searching for your passion right now. Because it will take a hell lot of time. It will take a hell lot of time to find it. And once you found it, it’ll get even more complicated. You’ll have to master it. But not mastery in the sense of an expert. An expert is someone that knows a hell lot about one thing, only. Instead, you have to become a master in the sense of mastering the art of being yourself. Of bringing your gift to this world. The gift that might change the world.
And once you found it and you stop pretending to be someone you’re not, no one will be able to compete with you, ever again. No one will be able to stop you. You’re unique. That’s the key to becoming remarkable.
Unfortunately, you’ll be facing many obstacles and challenges along the way. The first and probably biggest challenge is about getting started. About getting over your initial set of fears. Fears that can come in all sorts of shapes and colors. The fear of failure. Of success. Of being ridiculed. Of being humiliated. Of doing something against the norm. Of losing everything you have. And the only way to get over your initial set of fears is to accept this one simple thing:
You need to acknowledge that you don’t have to be perfect to get started. You don’t even need to know who you really are. Or what you really want in this life. It’s all about finding your path. The path that will help you to figure yourself out.
6. Getting started
“You must continue to gain expertise, but avoid thinking like an expert.” — Denis Waitley
But first things first. You need to get started. And it doesn’t matter if you suck at it. You don’t need to be perfect to make a difference. You don’t even need to be the best at what you’re doing. You don’t need to be an expert. Most of the time being an amateur is an advantage. An amateur isn’t used to do things in a certain way. An amateur is not restrained by rules. Or reputation. Amateurs are usually willing to learn a lot more than someone that’s already good at something. Amateurs have an advantage that the expert doesn’t have. An amateur doesn’t have anything to lose. An expert on the other hand has everything to lose.
Maybe being perfect allows you to reach more people in the beginning. But then again, if you’re trying to be perfect, you’ll be like everybody else out there. And you’ll be judged by the same criteria everybody else is being judged, who is doing the same thing. And then you’ll be competing with 7 bn people. Instead, try to be yourself. Become a master at being yourself. And then build a monopoly around yourself. Create your own category. A category where nobody else fits in. That’s how you stand out. That’s how you become remarkable. That’s how to be yourself.
And once you start being yourself, people will start appreciating you and your work. You might even inspire some of them to be themselves, too. You might even change the way people look at their own lives.
But who am I to be telling you any of this? Don’t believe me. Just try.
You shouldn’t worry about conventions or rules if you want to be yourself. The only reason why rules exist is to change them. To improve them. But don’t do anything illegal, alright?
Here’s an example. You might think that you need an editor to write a book. Or someone that designs your cover. Or a publisher. The truth is that you don’t need any of this. Actually you do need all of this if you want to compete with everybody else. If you want to play by the old rules. But if you’re willing to change the rules you need to create your own rules. You need to create your own category.
Create your own category of writing. A category where it’s not about being perfect. Where it’s not about perfect grammar and sophisticated terms that no one really understands. Where it’s only about your honest and true voice. Without being perfect. Don’t believe me? This book is the living proof, just like thousands of other books out there. I designed the cover myself. I edited the book myself (even though I hate it and it took me an eternity). I don’t have a publisher.
As you might have noticed by now, I’m not even an English native speaker. English is just my third, well maybe second language. Some people say that I’m a cheap ass who delivers poor quality. But those people miss an important point. A beginner doesn’t have to be perfect. It’s not about being perfect and never will be. It’s about being yourself. It’s about not being afraid of being yourself and making mistakes. It’s about being human.
And if you wait until you’re perfect, you’ll never get started. You’ll end up having lived a life where you didn’t do any of the things you always wanted to do. You were too scared of making mistakes. Of failure. If it was about being perfect, I would probably never have published this book. I was afraid of what others might think about me. I was afraid that people might want their money back. That no one likes this book. That people might complain about the poor grammar. Or the typos. But I did it nonetheless. And if I’m able to do it, everybody else can. It really is all about getting started and about not being afraid anymore. And getting better every single day. And nothing else.
And you know what? No one is good at anything right away. We all suck when we start. What being remarkable is all about is to get started and to give people the chance to discover you. To find out about who you really are. With all your flaws, rawness and uniqueness.
And that’s how you get started. That’s how you start to be yourself and become remarkable. By not caring about the conventions. By being yourself. By not listening to the masses that are constantly telling you that this is not possible. That this is not the way things should be done. That things were always done this way and that’s why you can’t do it another way.
You need to get started when you’re not ready. When you’re scared. And not an expert. You need to ignore the voices in your head. That’s what will inspire hundreds if not thousands of other people to do the same. It will inspire and motivate others to follow their own path. Their passion. Their dreams. Just like you do. It will inspire people to be themselves. And then they will inspire even more people. Until we all get rid of our masks of sameness we wear every single day. Until we all get back to our initial state of being ourselves. Of celebrating and being proud of our differences, while giving our gifts to the world. The gifts and stories this world so desperately needs. That is all part of the art of being remarkable. There’s no other way..
7. How to stand out in a crowded world
“Be different, stand out, and work your butt off.” — Reba McEntire
The world we live in today is a very strange place. So many people tell us what we should do with our lives. Our teachers, our professors, our parents or the people hiring us. Society in general. Everybody knows what’s best for us. We should go to school, then to university, graduate, find a well paid job, get married, start a family, buy a house and live happily ever after. Unfortunately, this concept doesn’t work for most of us anymore.
While everybody is telling us that this is the way to go, we watch the news and read the newspapers where we’re constantly bombarded with news about people losing their jobs, jobs being outsourced, companies being sold or companies moving their entire headquarters away to cheaper places. And it’s not just the blue collar workers anymore. Today it’s the white collar workers, too. It’s everyone up to middle management that seems to be losing their jobs or are about to lose their jobs. Or their contract will be outsourced to a temp work agency that will from now on employ you. With no job security or whatsoever. The dream of a safe and stable job we can keep for the rest of our lives is over. The reality is that nothing’s safe anymore.
Who knows what’s next? Economists clearly don’t. Governments don’t. I don’t. No one knows anything anymore. Or how would you explain what happened back in 2008? Or 2000? Why did only very few people see it all coming? Why did it even happen? Because no one knows what’s next. Everything has gotten way too complex and way out of hand to be predictable. Even understanding just a tiny little bit of what’s currently going on seems almost impossible. At least to me.
I believe that thanks to technology, most of us will be replaced in the not so far future by algorithms and computers that will do our work. I might be wrong about this. I also don’t have a clue about what’s next. But I know for sure that something is going to happen. Whatever that might be. It might be a possible scenario though. Now don’t get me wrong here. I believe that change, whatever it looks like is a good thing. It forces us to come up with new solutions. With new solutions to do more meaningful things. Change will ultimately force us to do the things we love and really care about. Because in a few years there won’t be any traditional jobs left anymore.
Unfortunately, the way that most people react to these changes is to do the exact same things they did a few decades ago. People try to ignore it as long as they can. That’s human nature. I also love to ignore things as long as I can. Every time I was in a dead relationship, I tried to ignore it as long as possible. I try to ignore failed projects as long as possible. I do this over and over again. But I get better at it.
What makes matters worse, is that the people telling you, me and all of us what we should be doing, such as your parents, schools, universities, professors, HR people or your job counselor, are the most clueless people out there. These people will tell you to do the exact same things that worked back in the days. Why? Because it worked back then. Because it worked for them. But it doesn’t work anymore today. Things have changed dramatically. The only thing that works these days (even more so in the future) is to stand out. To be yourself. To be remarkable. To not have the exact same CV like everybody else.
You actually don’t even need a CV anymore once you stand out. Word will get around.
I already mentioned this earlier but I will never stop repeating it over and over again. If you don’t try to stand out and do everything that everybody else does, you’ll be competing with everybody else. You’ll be competing with 7bn people for a small set of jobs. You’ll be competing for a set of jobs that’s disappearing little by little. And the only way to not be competing with the other 7bn people out there is to be remarkable. To stand out. To be yourself. And doing the stuff that everybody else tells you to do, the stuff everybody else does, won’t help you to do so. It might make you competitive, but competing on such a crowded market is like buying a lottery ticket. The probability of getting noticed is the same like winning in the lottery. It’s about zero.
I, for myself, would rather not compete on a market with 7bn competitors. I’d rather be myself, find my own niche, build a monopoly around myself, dominate it and then only compete with myself. That’s a lot easier. And once you found your monopoly, your niche, you’ll have the monopoly for life. Because no one on this planet earth is just like you. And will ever be just like you. You’re unique. We’re all unique. People will try to copy you but they will never succeed because they’re giving up their most valuable asset. They’re giving up their true identity, what they stand for and who they really are. That is and will never be sustainable in the long run..
Over the next few pages I’ll introduce you to the stuff that will help you to stand out. That helped me to stand out (at least a bit). I’ll introduce you to the stuff that will help you to be yourself. To find your niche. And to build your monopoly.
8. The 5 ways to “enlightenment”
We live in a world where everybody seems to be the same. Where people wear the same clothes, buy the same brands and use the exact same gadgets. Where people go to the exact same restaurants over and over again. Where people go on vacation to the exact same places. A world where standing out and being yourself is actually quite simple. But not easy.
Over the next few pages I’ll share five stories with you that personally helped me to unleash my potential and be myself. That helped to to get unstuck. These stories will help you to do the same..
#1 You’re free to do whatever you want to
Life is like a game of cards. The hand you are dealt is determinism; the way you play it is free will.- Jawaharlal Nehru
It all starts when we’re three years old. We’re told that we’ll join other kids and play together all day long. Playing all day long. That sounds pretty damn awesome, right? Freedom! But what nobody told us back then is that we have to show up every single day. No matter what. That doesn’t sound so awesome anymore. Is that what freedom looks like? Having to show up every single day? No matter what?
A few years later we’re being told the exact same story. The only difference is that playing is now restricted to one room where we have to sit straight for hours and hours every day (except Saturdays and Sundays). From now on we are not allowed to talk to our friends anymore. We’re also not allowed to choose what to play anymore. From now on playing is called learning.
Some 10+ years down the road we’re finally free! We graduated from high school and now the world is ours. We can do whatever we want to. Freedom at last! But what to do with all of this freedom? What to do with all of the free time? All of these choices. Well, we do what we were taught to over the past decade or so. We try to blend in. We try to do the same stuff everybody else is doing. We try to find the room where everybody is sitting up straight, not talking to anybody and not having any fun, at all. We have no clue what to do with our newly gained freedom. So we do the things we already know. The things we always do. Just like Barry Schwartz described it in his book The Paradox of Choice.
We’re so overwhelmed with the almost unlimited amount of choice that we simply stick to what everybody else is doing. We “backpack” the same places everybody else is. We have the same agenda everybody else has. A safe job. A house. A family. We try to get into the same schools everybody else wants to get into. We study something we’re barely interested in, just because it opens up many opportunities. Just because everybody else is doing it. Unfortunately, it only opens up opportunities that we’re not really interested in. We try to get the same jobs everybody else wants to get. We start working a job we don’t really care about. We start companies we don’t really care about. It’s the easiest way. The way with as little friction as possible.
All of this to be free one day. Free to do whatever we want to. Finally, freedom after 40+ years of work. Retirement. Only to realize that the joke was on us. Only to realize that our minds might be free but our bodies are holding us back from experiencing all of the great things we always dreamed about. All of the things that kept us alive working a job we didn’t really like. Living a life we didn’t really care about.
Only to realize that our bodies are now too weak or too sick to do all of the things we dreamed about (in case we’re still alive). That even our minds have gotten too weak for all of this. We’re too fed up.
The path of less friction is definitely the easiest path to take. But it’s also the path where we don’t have to deal with ourselves. It’s the path that allows us to ignore what we might really want to be doing. What we’d really love to be doing. What our real purpose in this life might be.
Finding out what you really want in life is one of the toughest things out there. I probably hate this more than anything else in the world. But this is the only way to ultimately become free. To love yourself. Your life. And everybody else around you. While trying to ignore ourselves and what we really want, the grip around our throats gets tighter and tighter. The grip of always taking the path of as little friction as possible. Without noticing it we start to lose our stamina. Without noticing it we turn into the pessimists society wants us to be. This loss of stamina is destroying our dreams, our ambitions, our motivations and our muse. We start to build a prison around ourselves. A prison for life. A prison that constantly tells us that this is never going to work out, that this is just a stupid dream of ours. That in this world, childish dreams don’t have a place to stay.
Little by little our life energy fades away. And with it our ambitions to make a difference. To change the world. Until you start to hate yourself. Your life, your spouse, your boyfriend (or girlfriend) or your kids. You start to blame others for your misery of not doing anything. Of not having the balls to change things. To live your dreams. To find your passion. To live a life you deeply care about.
But there’s a way out. There’s a way out of this prison. Out of this breathless existence. As a matter of fact, the prison door was unlocked all the time. But the way out is tough. Really tough. And it won’t work from one day to another. You need to start small. Just like you need to start small if you want to lose 100 pounds. If you want to run a marathon. If you want to start a business. It needs a hell lot of patience, persistence and constant training. Training in getting used to your freedom. In understanding how to benefit from it.
You, we, us, we all need to accept the fact that we’ve been living in a prison that only exists in your minds. A prison that was unlocked all the time. We could easily have walked away. But we stayed inside the prison walls. These walls made us feel safe and secure. These walls protected us from all the harm that awaited us in the outside world. All of these years just to realize that you were free all along. That the prison door was unlocked. That we were free to simply walk away. To do the things we always wanted to do in life. That we don’t have to live our lives according to someone else’s plan. We really are free to do whatever we want to. Whatever that freedom might look like for you. For me, writing these lines and this book is the ultimate experience of freedom. And this is the first big lesson to remember on your way to being yourself and becoming remarkable:
“You are, always have been and always will be free to do and become whatever you want to. You don’t have to live someone else’s life. You’re free to live your own life.”
#2 Nobody is able to unleash your potential
With realization of one’s own potential and self-confidence in one’s ability, one can build a better world. — Dalai Lama
Every time I talk to someone that seems to be stuck in life, I always get the impression that people feel underused and overworked at their current jobs or at whatever they’re currently doing. Underused because we are forced to do things that feel like a trained monkey could do them. That’s at least the feeling that I usually got when someone told me to do this or do that. Things we didn’t really need that expensive diploma for. Things we don’t need to wear those fancy clothes for. Things that would actually only take half the time if we weren’t forced to make sure that everybody’s asses are fully covered (which usually takes twice as long as the task itself). And we feel overworked because we work hours and hours, days and days, months and months, doing mind numbing things (that often consist of the already mentioned “ass covering”). Sometimes we have to do this for many, many years (or until get promoted and turn into that guy who tells everybody to make sure everybody’s asses are covered). And then at some point we start to burn out. We start to feel empty inside. We start to feel like we’re wasting all our potential.
Our potential to change the world. Our potential to leave a dent in the universe. Our potential to change people’s lives. To live our dreams. To actually become our dreams. And then we start to look for who’s to blame. We start to blame our bosses. Our colleagues. Our spouses. Our kids. The mortgage. The stock market. The economy. God damn it. The economy! Sometimes we even start to hate our lives a bit. But the truth is that there’s only one person to blame. There’s only one person than can unleash your potential. There’s only one person to even grasp your entire potential. And it’s none of the above.
It’s the person you see every morning when you get up, walk to the bathroom, wipe the sleep out of your face and look into the mirror. That’s the person! That’s the only person that can help you to unleash your true potential. And no one else. There’s no one else that will make your magic work. There’s no one else that can light your candle on fire and turn it into a wild fire. There’s no one else that might be able to pull off the biggest thing humanity has ever seen. There’s no one else but you. And that’s the second big lesson to remember on your path to becoming remarkable:
“There’s only one person that can unleash your true potential. And it’s not your boss. It’s not your colleagues. Not your spouse. Or your kids. It’s you.”
# 3 Time + Persistence + Patience = Passion
“There is no passion to be found playing small-in settling for a life that is less than the one you are capable of living.” -Nelson Mandela
The most important part about being yourself and becoming remarkable is to find your passion. If you’re not passionate about the thing you do, you will never be able to become remarkable. Finding your passion is hard. Finding what you’re passionate about is hard. Really hard. That’s why no one seems to find it. Some people were lucky enough to find their passion early on in life. Most of us (including me), struggle our entire lives to find it.
Unfortunately, it doesn’t magically show up one day, knock at your door and introduce itself as passion. Trust me on this one. I tried and waited for many years. It never showed up. What you need to do instead is to get your ass off that couch and get the hell out there. You need to stop waiting and instead start hunting it down. It might take you many years. Or you’ll never find it. Who knows? I don’t.
It takes a hell lot of time, patience and persistence to find your passion. To find the things you’re passionate about. And that’s why you’ll probably never find your passion. Why so many people are struggling to find their passion in life.
We usually don’t know what our passion is. And the only way to find it is to try out all sorts of different things that amaze you. Or things you always thought might amaze you, but never tried because you were too scared. The reason why it’s so difficult is that the process is so inefficient, so unpredictable, so against what we’re used to (we’re used to robot like efficiency) that we simply drop it after a while. We stop searching for our passion after a while because it takes way too much time, is inefficient and way too hard. Instead, we decide to stay efficient. We decide to churn out the same stuff over and over again, whereas the secret to finding your passion lies in the exact opposite. It lies in getting out there, experimenting and getting good at churning out all sorts of different things until one magic day you might find it. Until it finds you.
Let me tell you a little secret about finding your passion that I discovered just recently. The problem about finding your passion is that you will never be able to be really passionate about anything right away. You need to become very, very good at it before you’ll be able to become really and truly passionate about anything. And once you’ve reached a certain skill level it will all of a sudden turn into fun. Into art.
Let’s face it. Getting started is always tough. And we almost always suck at something we just started. But once you get over a certain threshold and become really good at something, people will start to notice. Once they start to noticing, they will start trusting you. But that’s still a long way to go. And once you passed that threshold, people will start telling their friends about you. About the stuff you’re doing. And these people will again tell their friends. And then all of a sudden people will start to clap their hands. People will applaud. Or they won’t. I don’t know. Maybe no one will ever notice that you even exist. It doesn’t matter.
What matters is that getting good at something and the willingness to put a lot of time and effort into something is the prerequisite to finding your passion. To be yourself. There is no overnight success. And because finding your passion needs so much time, it’s essential that you work on buying yourself some freedom. Finding your passion and becoming good at it won’t really work if you don’t have time. If you’re not really willing to invest a lot of time and energy into it.
I hated writing when I was young. I hated it, because I was very bad at it. At least when I looked at my grades in high school. But the more time I invested and the more effort I put into my writing, the better I became over time (I still suck at it though). And the more people applauded. And the more people applauded, the more I wanted to write. The more it felt like fun. The more I wanted to share my work with people. Right now my passion is writing. I absolutely hate proofreading though. That’s probably the reason why you found so many typos
But who knows. Maybe tomorrow I’ll enjoy singing. Or dancing. Maybe I’ll get good at one of them. The thing is that we always need to invest a lot of time and effort into things. And then people might applaud. And then you might want to do it all the time.
I also believe that you don’t have to limit yourself to one single passion. There are so many things out there. And to me, the best passion by far is to be passionate about finding your passion. And once you found your passion and you put in a lot of time and effort, you can stick with it for the rest of your life. Or you can combine it with your other passions.
It’s important to acknowledge is the fact that finding your passion doesn’t happen over night. It’s never a linear process. It’s usually a complete chaos and at one point all of the dots start to connect and all the small pieces that seemed completely unrelated, start to form a beautiful picture. Hence, the third big lesson on your way to becoming remarkable is this:
“Before you’ll be able to be remarkable, to be your true self, you need to find you passion. Finding your passion will usually take a hell lot of time, patience and persistence.”
# 4 Clean up your inner mess
Status quo, you know, is Latin for ‘the mess we’re in’. — Ronald Reagan
Over the past few years I encountered a special breed of people. And I have to admit it. I’m one of them, too. Well, sometimes. Not all the time. I’m talking about people that constantly seem to be unhappy about their current situation. A breed of people that doesn’t like their jobs. That wants to quit their jobs. A breed of people that seems to be lacking some things in their lives. What I realized (also looking at myself) is that people usually start to look for change by changing the outside. The surface. External things. I’ve been guilty of doing this myself, many many times. I’m far away from being perfect. Don’t get me wrong here. I love change. But I feel that change has to happen somewhere else. Not on the outside. Not on the surface. It has to happen from within. Changing and painting the facade of an ugly and run down building will still not make it a beautiful building. The apartments inside the building will still be old, ugly and run down. It might look nice from the outside, but the inside is still a big mess.
Simply changing the facade won’t change a thing. Unfortunately. I tried. Many times. It never worked. The easy stuff never really works, at least not in the long run. Still, easy is comfortable. And that’s why we usually shoot for easy first. Just a bucket of paint, a few strokes here and there and you’re done. But if you don’t deal with your inner self and only try to work on the facade, your inner self will still be a big mess. If you try to ignore that inner mess of yours, the only thing that’s going to happen next is the exact same thing that happened before. You know, that one time when you were happy. That one time you were satisfied. Not too long ago you were very happy and pleased with your new job. Your current life. But right now, the new job feels somehow worn out and run down. Just like that building. And the exact same thing is going to happen with your new job. Your new life partner. Your entire life. And the exact same thing is going to happen with that building’s facade. Over and over again. Simply painting the facade won’t increase the value of the entire building. Working on the outside won’t change a thing. It’s just a temporary fix. A fix that won’t help nobody. Neither the apartment owner, nor the people living in there. Or you. You’ll simply jump from one race to the next. From fixing one thing on the surface to the next.
Over the past few years I got the feeling that a lot of people simply quit their jobs just to quit their jobs. That people start working on their own stuff just to work on their own stuff. Or work on an idea just to not work for the man.
What happens after a while is that the thing you started working on because you thought it was a good idea will turn into the exact same thing you tried to run away from. It will turn into an old and run down building. It turns into working for the man. The only difference is that the man this time is someone else. Maybe a bank. Maybe an investor. Maybe a mortgage.
Jumping from one race to the next without really dealing with your true inner self will never be a good solution. After a while it gets very tiring. And one day you’ll end up with no paint left to paint that damn wall. Or the paint will run right down without sticking to the surface. Too many poorly painted layers make it impossible to stick. No paint left. No energy left. And the only way to fix it is to fully renovate that building. To take your time and deal with your true inner self. To understand your true needs. What you really want in this life. To find your inner balance. To find your purpose in life. To ultimately love yourself. That’s the only way to escape the race. That’s the only way to be happy. To be satisfied. To be yourself. To find your gift to this world. It only works inside out. Not the other way round. That’s the fourth lesson on your path the becoming remarkable.
“You need to clean up your inner mess first to be able to be yourself, to become remarkable, to truly love yourself, your life, your job and even someone else.”
#5 Stop waiting. Start creating.
Change will not come if we wait for some other person or some other time. We are the ones we’ve been waiting for. We are the change that we seek. — Barack Obama
We humans are a really strange bunch. We wait our entire lives for people to choose us. We wait for schools to choose us. For universities to choose us. For companies to choose us. For the girl at the bar to come over, talk to us and choose us. To me it seems that we got so used to depending on other people’s decisions and gatekeepers for pretty much everything that defines us. Our lives. Our mission. Our dreams.
A long time ago we gave up our freedom to choose for ourselves. We unlearned how to take care of ourselves. Today, our entire lives are based on other people’s decisions. We simply accepted it. Even though we might have a slight chance to say what we want, in the end it’s always someone else that decides about our destiny. About our lives. And then we start to live someone else’s life. Not our own life. Not the life we dreamed about. And slowly but steadily we start to hate this life. We start to resent it. And sometimes we even start to feel dead inside. We feel like we sold our souls. Our dreams. Our values. We bury ourselves in regrets. Regrets that paralyze us. Regrets that hold us back from taking action. From taking small steps to living a life we truly care about.
We start to live in the past and are afraid of the future. We can’t seem to break free. We’re lost in a life we don’t really care about. A life that’s not true to our core anymore. A life in loneliness. A sad life. A life where we only have one option. A life where we have to actively decide to choose ourselves again, before anything else. And by choosing ourselves we will ultimately become free again once and for all. We will become the ones that choose. We will be the ones deciding about our own lives. We will finally become the gatekeepers of our own lives, once again. And that’s the fifth and last lesson.
“You need to stop waiting for others to choose you. You need to become the gatekeeper of your own life once again and choose yourself instead.”
9. But what about the money?
It’s not about the money and will never be about the money. It’s all about making a difference. About being remarkable. And once you realized this, embraced it and channeled it into your grand vision, money will be a side effect.
But what about my family, my kids, my expensive wife (or lazy husband), the mortgage and my retirement funds? I can’t just quit my job!
No one said that you have to quit your job. You should actually keep it as long as possible and try to save as much money as possible (more on this later). You should never quit your job right away. Quitting your job completely out of the blue without being prepared wouldn’t be such a good idea. What you need to do instead, is to start planting your seeds.
Seeds that might one day turn into a strong enough tree to support you. Your family. And once one of your seeds turns into a strong enough tree you can quit your job. Even if you don’t know how you’re going to change the world or how you’re going to be remarkable, the only way to figure it out is to start planting your seeds. Planting your seeds comes down to trial & error. It comes down to figuring out what works and what doesn’t. It comes down to trying out all the different things that amaze you or that you think might amaze you. And once you found something that not only amazes you, but that also develops into something that might support you and/or your family, then you might have found not only your passion, but also your way to becoming remarkable.
10. Why you’re going to fail.
All good is hard. All evil is easy. Dying, losing, cheating, and mediocrity is easy. Stay away from easy. — Scott Alexander
Being yourself and becoming remarkable is the opposite of easy. It’s the opposite of conventional. And conventional is always easy. Conventional is the stuff everybody else does. It’s the path millions and millions before you have already taken. It’s the road often traveled. All obstacles along the way have already been removed by the millions of people that came before you. And because it’s so damn hard to be remarkable, to be yourself and so damn easy to be like everybody else we shoot for easy. Being remarkable on the other hand is the road less traveled.
You still need to remove all the clutter and all the obstacles along the way. Only a few people have taken the road less traveled. So there are still dozens of obstacles along the way, which you need to remove. And removing these obstacles can be really tough. And very time consuming.
What makes being yourself even harder is the fact that the world is full of countless situations and people that want to bring us back onto the conventional path. The easy path. These are mostly people that don’t want to do us any harm. Most of the time they want to help us. People that want to bring us back onto the conventional path include our friends, our parents, our teachers, our professors and many more. They know how hard it is to take the road less traveled. How hard it is to remove all the clutter and the obstacles along the way. So they want us to join them on the conventional path. The easy path. They want to protect us. Well most of them. They want us to have an easy life. A seemingly good life.
But being remarkable is all about complications. About hardship. About pain. About suffering. You’ll mostly encounter headwind and countless roadblocks. For a long time. Numerous people will try to convince you that being yourself is just too damn hard. They want you to join them on the sunny side. The side where there’s enough beer and spareribs for everybody. But not all of them do it just out of pure goodwill. There’s a hidden force at play. Sometimes. An unconscious force that makes people want to sabotage you. Us. Me. Everybody. A hidden agenda. In case you might be successful (against all odds) the ordinary many might realize that it’s actually possible to escape the rat race. That it’s actually possible to stand out. To be yourself and to change the world, however big or small. And that’s what most people and society in general (unconsciously) doesn’t want to happen. Because your success might mean that their sunny side is actually the dark side. Hence, they have to protect their own little world. They have to protect their world against you succeeding in standing out. In making a difference. Otherwise their entire world might collapse.
And that’s why it’ll be harder than everything else to become remarkable. To be yourself and to stand out. Be ready for it.
People trying to hold you back include gatekeepers, family & friends, critics and the normalization of mediocrity as part of our society. But I don’t want to talk about these things right here. A lot of people have already talked about this stuff and the importance of being able to overcome all of these things.
What I want to focus on instead is something else. I want to focus on something that’s a lot more important to take into consideration. Something that’s a lot more dangerous than all of the above things combined. The one thing that might endanger everything you’re about do to or are already doing.
11. The hardest thing about hard things
“Blessed is he who expects nothing, for he shall never be disappointed.” — Alexander Pope
The one thing that might endanger your entire journey to being yourself and becoming remarkable are expectations. Expectations are the one thing that might get you down. That might have an impact a lot bigger than any of the other roadblocks in front of you. Maybe it’s just me, but every time I messed up in life and something got me down, it usually came down to expectations. Be it a business or project I started, expected the world and got nothing instead. Be it the girl I expected dating for quite a while and was left alone. Or the people I helped out, expected gratitude and got nothing instead.
Every time I got upset or disappointed about something, it was all because I was expecting too much. And once I realized this, I tried to stop expecting things. The world doesn’t owe me anything. It doesn’t owe you anything. It doesn’t owe us anything. It’s really tough to not expect anything from this life, from someone or something we do. I struggle with it every day. And it needs a hell lot of practice. And patience.
Whenever you expect too much you can easily get disappointed. Reality will punch you right in your face, again and again. When you expect things, paint beautiful pictures about the future, you have a hell lot to lose (even though it’s just a picture in your head).
If the reality doesn’t look like you pictured it, you’ll get upset, disappointed or maybe even break down. And let’s face it. We all suck at predicting the future. So that picture will never really look like we imagined it to look like.
On the other hand if you don’t expect anything you don’t have anything to lose. If you don’t paint that beautiful picture you won’t get disappointed. You’ll only get surprised.
But wait a minute. If you never expect anything how can you motivate yourself to do anything or to achieve anything in this life? How can you work a job you don’t like and not expect anything in return? How can you date someone and not expect anything in return? How can you help someone out and not expect anything in return?
These are all some pretty damn good questions. I struggled quite a while to find a good answer (for myself). And it’s not about lowering your standards or your expectations. It’s about something else entirely.
If you truly love your work, you will never expect anything in return. If you truly love someone, you will never expect anything in return. If you truly love helping out, you will never expect anything in return. At the end of the day it’s all about doing what you love. I know it sounds corny but that’s just what it is.
If you truly love something or someone, you won’t expect anything in return. Ever.
Everything will be a side effect (sooner or later) of you doing the things you love. Happiness. Friends. Money. Everything. So the only real answer to the question of how you deal with one of the biggest roadblocks on your journey to becoming remarkable is to only do the stuff you love.
Only do the stuff you would also do for free. You need to get rid of the stuff that you don’t love. The stuff you only do because you get paid to do it. Only hang out with the people you love. And get rid of the rest. Only help out if you don’t expect anything in return. And don’t help out if you expect something in return.
This isn’t something that will happen over night. It’s something you need to work on slowly but steadily. It won’t happen over night. The good news is that following the path of becoming remarkable will ultimately get you there. Maybe not today. Maybe not tomorrow. Maybe not in 10 years. Maybe never. But that’s where you need to get in life. And you need to work towards it and nothing else. It’s that simple. But not easy..
12. The old system: Learn, earn, return
Giving back involves a certain amount of giving up. — Colin Powell
The most important thing to become remarkable is to be yourself, to be happy, fulfilled and to ultimately find and do what you love. You need to find the things you love, do them and then become really, really good at them. Before you will ever be able to become remarkable you need to work on these things first. And that’s the tricky part about it. It’s all about being different and not being afraid of being different. That’s the essence of being remarkable and being yourself. It’s about being different. It’s about celebrating your differences, while others are celebrating their similarities. It’s about being yourself and finding your gift. It’s about hiding your similarities.
There’s not one single way. There are many different ways. And how you get there is different from one person to the other. For some people it might be about building a children’s hospital in one of the poorest countries in the world. For others it might be about building the world’s most successful company. Or giving to charity. Or publishing the world’s most successful novel. There’s no unique theme about how to get there. It’s about that inner passion. It’s about the theme of giving back. The theme of making this world a better place. One might think that the theme of being remarkable is about making money or being successful. But it’s not.
Let’s take a quick look at some of the most successful people out there. People that most of us would probably consider remarkable. People like Steve Jobs, Bill Gates or Mark Zuckerberg. They all got incredibly rich and super successful. And then, all of a sudden they decided to give a lot of money to charity. Some of them decided to give away almost all of their money to charity. The money they worked for so hard. The money they could have used to buy themselves some freedom. And the list goes on and on. Recently, Apple’s new CEO, Tim Cook, also decided to give away almost all of his money to charity.
That makes me wonder if the unifying theme that we can extract from all of these ultra successful people is the theme of giving back. All of these people could have bought entire islands and do nothing for the rest of their lives. Each and every single one of them could probably have bought and bailed out Greece for good. And then Spain. And then Italy. What they did instead though is that they decided to give all of their money to charity. Or work for charities. Or start their own charities. It looks a bit like all of the stuff these folks achieved didn’t make them happy. Didn’t make them feel fulfilled. That all of this didn’t even really matter to them that much. Maybe they were happy. I don’t know. But to me it seems that these super successful people still felt like something was missing in their lives.
What seems to be the secret sauce is to help others. If all of this were true, that at the end of the day the stuff most of us are trying to achieve (fame, money, success, etc.) seems to still make us feel sort of empty inside and the only stuff we can do to feel fulfilled is to give back, to help other people, why not give back right from the very start? Why not do something great and at the same time give back? Why not try to find out what we can give to this world before working 40+ years only to figure out that the only thing that makes us happy, that satisfies us is to give back? Why not use our inner fire and our passion to give right from the very start, instead of taking all the time? And let’s not use the words “give back”. Because giving back sort of implies that we’ve already taken too much.
Taking a look at all of these examples, it seems that happiness and feeling fulfilled go a lot deeper than simply achieving ones goals or any other external measurement of success. It seems to go deep into the human need for helping each other. For feeling connected. For caring about each other. It’s about that human need we somehow lost during our daily struggle for survival.
Even though our daily struggle for survival doesn’t imply a real struggle for survival anymore (at least not for most of us). The problems have shifted away from a more basic need level, such as food and shelter, to a more psychological level, such as stress, anxiety and fear. And being remarkable is all about getting over these artificial things that constantly stress us out, that complicate our lives, that drain our energy and make us feel miserable inside. It’s about getting over these things and at the same time making a difference and doing something remarkable. It’s about finding the gift that only you can give this world. Ultimately, it’s about giving before one takes too much..
13. The new system: Learn, return, earn
We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give. — Winston Churchill
What makes it even harder to give back is the fact that the current system is broken. I realized it the other day when I attended a talk where someone said something that made me think for a while. She said the following three words: “Learn, earn, return.” In itself it’s a really great concept. But what if the things you learn don’t allow you to earn enough to give back? What if you struggle all of your life? What if you never get the chance to give anything back? This might sound a bit absurd, I know. Why would people not be able to earn enough (money, time, experience, etc.) with the help of the stuff they learned? Why wouldn’t they be able to give back? And the answer is quite simple. Just look around.
Many folks in countries such as China who graduated can’t find a university level job. There are way too many graduates for too few university level jobs. So they have to work in factories. That’s the only choice they have. Sometimes they have to live in housing projects in underground cities. How will these people ever be able to give anything back? No one ever really gave them anything. Or people working in Germany that earn less than the current average unemployment benefit. How will they ever be able to give anything back? Or students that attended an expensive college in the US and struggle finding a job back home. How will they ever be able to give anything back? And the list goes on and on. Sure, right now this doesn’t concern most of us. Until it does..
What I realized over the years is that the old way of doing things is somehow broken. The traditional “learn, earn, return” model doesn’t work anymore. It doesn’t seem to work any longer for most of us. Millions of jobs disappearing all of a sudden. Graduates struggling to find jobs. Cost explosions. Stagnating salaries for the middle class.
The truth is that many of us will never really get the chance to turn the things we learned into anything. We will never be able to give anything back. Many of us will never be able to satisfy one of our deepest needs and desires. We will never be able to give anything back and help others. We’re too busy helping ourselves.
Giving back can come in all sorts of shapes and colors. And it’s not just about money. In many cases money might make matters only worse. What it’s really about is about sharing experiences. Sharing lessons learned. Sharing your passion. Being yourself and giving your gift to this world. In the end it’s about inspiring and motivating people to do the same.
Many of us struggle to give back because we’re just too busy earning and living our own lives. Lives lived in a world that increases in complexity, that gets more stressful and complicated every single day. We’re always buys. No time. Time is our most precious resource. So we try to protect it as much as we can. We have no time to give. We have no time to share share our lessons. Our experiences. Our passions. Our gifts. We end up sharing nothing and keep everything for ourselves. But giving back is about time. It’s about willing to give others our gift of time. That’s what it’s all about. But we prefer to stare at screens instead scrolling and liking our brains away.
Unfortunately, the approach learn, earn, return is broken. It doesn’t work anymore. We need to find a new way. And to me, the only solution is to change the order. To change the order into “learn, return, earn”. Read it again. Did you see the difference?
Sharing experiences, sharing lessons and giving your gift of time to others might help some people out there. And it will push other people to do the same. It’s a positive cycle. Will it make you rich? Probably not. Will it make you happy in the long run? Maybe. Maybe not. I don’t know. What it did for me though is that it sparked something deep inside of me that I didn’t even know existed. And now I try to turn that spark into a wildfire. And you should do so too. You should ignite your inner fire and do everything you can to turn it into a fierce wildfire. And you should stop waiting until you’ve got enough time. Enough money. Or enough whatever. Because you will never have enough. That’s human nature. Giving before you take too much is what’s ultimately at the core of being yourself and becoming remarkable..
14. What’s your gift to this world?
“The greatest good you can do for another is not just share your riches, but reveal to them their own.” — Disraeli
This is a very tricky question. That’s why I tried to avoid it as long as possible. I’m not able to give THE answer to this question. Because there is not THE one answer. There are many answers to this question. The only thing I can do is to give you some pointers. Pointers that might solve your riddle. And one way to solve your riddle is to find the things that amaze you. And once you found the things that amaze you, you need to do them. All the time. For a really long time. It sounds simple. And obvious. And it actually is simple. But it’s not easy at all. To find your gift to this world you absolutely need to do the things that amaze you (or what you believe might amaze you). That’s the only way you can find your passion. And finding your passion is the one prerequisite for finding your gift. If you’re among this tiny group of people that doesn’t have anything that amazes you, then think about your childhood. What did you love doing back then? What amazed you back then? This might be one way to figure out what amazes you. And then just do it.
And you know what? I don’t believe that one is born with a certain set of passions. Or things that amaze you. I strongly believe that passions are shaped over a lifetime. And the only things you’re usually passionate about, are the things you’re good at. If you’re not good at it, you will never become passionate about it. And if you’ll never become passionate about it, it will always feel like work. And everything that feels like work is something we will want to stop at one point or the other. Something that we will resent sooner or later.
What usually keeps us doing all of these things we don’t like, such as our jobs is the financial benefit involved. Finding your gift, the gift you can give to this world, is really about finding your passion. It’s not about making money. It’s about finding your passion and then creating and finding a setting that amplifies it as much as possible. A setting that brings it to as many people as possible. There is no other way.
The only way to find your passion is to do the things that amaze you. Some of them might turn into your passion. Some of them won’t. And that’s what I meant earlier with the phrase “planting your seeds”. Planting your seeds really is about finding your passion. It’s about finding something that amazes you, that you’ll become good at over time, that will turn into your passion, that will then some day be your gift to this world. Or it won’t. Maybe you’ll find something else. Or maybe you’ll never become good at it. It doesn’t matter.
What matters is that you never give up. That you keep on pushing. And searching. No matter what. Simply being amazed by something is usually not enough. Being amazed by something needs to be paired with the willingness to put in a hell lot of work, persistence and a lot of time.
Here’s a formula you should keep in mind if you want to find your passion and ultimately your gift to the world:
doing things that amaze you + time + persistence = passion
passion + mastery = your gift to this world
This is the formula to find your passion. To find your gift to this world. To become remarkable. Try to keep the above formula in mind. Actually, don’t just keep it mind. Because the mind tends to forget. We tend to forget. And ignore things. Keep it in your pocket. Print it on a small piece of paper. Put it in your wallet and have it with you all the time. Put it somewhere where you see it every day. Put it where you store your dollar bills (or whatever currency you use). Make sure that you can see the formula at least once a day. That’s how important it is. It has to become a part of you. A part of your daily life. A constant reminder. There’s no other way. There might be, but that’s the way it works for me. Maybe it also works for you. Maybe not. And that’s how you will ultimately find your gift to this world. If you miss just one thing of the equation it won’t work.
15. Unleashing human potential
Leadership is unlocking people’s potential to become better. — Bill Bradley
A lot of people told me that all of this stuff about finding your passion and ultimately your gift to this world sounds really nice. But it misses some practical advice. And it’s totally true.
Unfortunately, I’ll have to disappoint you. There is no practical advice. There is not the one advice. There is no process one can extract and then apply to each and every person or situation. It doesn’t work that way. The only thing that works is to have faith in the process. You need to have faith in the process that you’ll figure everything out along the way. There is no step by step guide to follow. That’s not how it works. Because if it did, everybody would already be doing it. We’re all different. We all have different ways of thinking. Different problems. Different questions. And different questions and problems require individual solutions.
The things that worked for me, might not work for you. What I can tell you though is that it will not work to follow some sort of plan. At least not in my life. Plans always work top down. You decide on something and then you do it and stick with it. For the rest of your life. You become inflexible. You miss the necessary iterations along the way. But these iterations are inevitable. Only through trial and error and the following iterations will you be able to find your gift.
To me, following a plan is like forcing someone to date you. That never really works. Trust me. I tried. It just doesn’t work. What we need to do instead is to go on as many dates as possible to figure out whether or not the person we’re dating is a good match. Relationships, just like finding your passion, grow organically. They don’t work top down. And if they do, it’s most likely some form of slavery. Relationships, just like following your passion and finding your gift don’t follow a certain process that you can extrapolate, replicate and then apply over and over again. It only works bottom up.
I promised you a few pointers at the beginning of this chapter. That’s why I’ll discuss a few things that might help you. A few things that helped me. But please keep in mind that there’s not one process or one way to find your gift. There are many different ways. What’s essential though is that you need to have faith in the process. You need to have faith that you’ll figure it all out along the way. Through trial and error. Don’t wait for that perfect plan. Or idea. Or perfect moment. That perfect plan doesn’t exist. Just like that perfect moment doesn’t exist. So here are a few things worth considering on your way to finding your passion. To finding yourself.
16. The one thing you’re trying to ignore
Never ignore a gut feeling, but never believe that it’s enough. — Robert Heller
I sometimes have these moments of bliss. These moments are totally unpredictable. Sometimes they come once every few months. Sometimes they come once every few years. And they usually happen at similar occasions.
The first time I had one of these moments was when I was about 20 years old. It’s really hard to describe. But when they happen, you just know it. In these moments I feel completely fulfilled, happy and am completely at peace with myself, the world and everything around me. Every time these moments happen, I know that the thing I’m currently doing is what I should be doing for the rest of my life. Or at least for a longer period. Maybe not the exact same thing. But the core of it. I feel that in these moments the universe is trying to tell me that the thing I’m currently doing might help me to find my true self. My gift to this world and what I should be doing.
I know that sounds corny but every time this happens, I get watery eyes. The first time I experienced this was when I was traveling after I graduated from high school. I’ve been away from home for more than three months for the first time in my life. And that moment of total inner peace happened when I was sitting in a restaurant with a really good friend of mine on a small island. I felt totally at peace with the world and was thankful for having experienced so many amazing things. It’s not that I wanted to control this feeling. Or that I wanted it to happen. It just happened. All of a sudden it was there.
Even when I tried as hard as I possibly could, I was never really able to artificially replicate it. Ever since this happened, it happened a few more times. It always happened at very similar occasions. Usually when I’m far away in another country that’s very different from my home country Germany. I always tried to ignore this feeling when it popped up. I tried to ignore it over and over again. But over the years, I realized that this is the universe trying to send me a message. A very unclear and blurry message. A message that’s been part of my life for now more than ten years.
Another situation where this feeling pops up over and over again is when I think about possible ways to give people a voice that no one listened to before. And sometimes I stumble across things where I feel this bliss again. It started probably six years ago when I was studying abroad in Montreal. Montreal is a great city. It’ a great city with a lot of homeless people. It was the first time I’ve ever seen so many homeless people at one place. Back then, I was thinking about starting a project where I would portray homeless people all around the world. Back in the days I was only taking pictures but never wrote anything. I never really started this project, but sometimes, when I see a homeless person, I get these thrills again. I feel the same feeling I had back then on this small island.
Even though I never really started this project (or anything related), whenever a similar situation pops up, I feel a bit more ready to tackle it. Whatever this might look like in the end. I’m getting there. One step at a time. I’m not in a rush. I’m getting ready.
17. Don’t rush. Ever.
You do not need to leave your room. Remain sitting at your table and listen. Do not even listen, simply wait, be quiet still and solitary. The world will freely offer itself to you to be unmasked, it has no choice, it will roll in ecstasy at your feet. — Franz Kafka
Every time I read or hear something about finding your passion, I somehow feel in a rush. Every time I read an inspiring story of someone who did something great, I immediately feel the rush of doing something great, too. And then I usually get upset about it because I don’t get anything done. Because I seem so average. That I haven’t achieved anything in my life yet. After having read such a story, I always feel like I have to pull off one of these insanely inspiring stories right away.
But I guess that’s not what it’s all about. It’s all about getting ready for your one big thing one step at a time. No rush. What matters is that you learn. That I learn. That you learn and master the skills you might need. Some people might have it all figured out right away, whereas others might need some more time. Time to listen to that inner voice, to get better, to get more confident and to get ready for what’s to come next.
Even though I have no clue about what exactly all of these things mean when they happen, I try to keep my eyes and ears open. I try to listen for signals. And try to ignore all the noise. At the same time I try to collect as many pieces of my puzzle as possible. And you should, too.
It’s not about forcing the process. It’s not about pushing for particular solutions. It’s about having faith in the process. You will never be able to find that bliss if you’re pushing too hard. That bliss will find you. You will find it. Have faith.
Some people find it very early on in life, whereas others need some more time. It doesn’t matter. What really matters is to have faith. That you never give up. That you’re confident enough that at one point all of the pieces of your puzzle will make sense. That one day they will form a beautiful picture. But you can’t force it. I can’t force it. We can only listen. And wait for more signals. And while we’re waiting we should try to get better at doing the things that might ultimately help us bring our gift to this world. To be able to bring it to as many people as possible.
This includes trying to understand man different thing better. To me this includes understanding:
- How communities work.
- How businesses work.
- How you can spread your ideas.
- How to present and promote ideas in written form.
- How to present them in front of a large audience.
- How to get in touch with people that are a lot more influential than I ever will be.
And many more things. Those are the things I can do right now. And be confident that at the end all of it makes sense. Some of you might now say that it’s obvious what I should be doing. But I prefer to learn all of these things upfront. I try to listen and keep my eyes and ears open. After all, it’s a marathon and not a sprint..
18. Listen closely. No talk.
Listen to many, speak to a few. — William Shakespeare
I don’t know. Maybe you think I’ve gone totally crazy after you read this. But the thing is that I just felt like sharing it. Maybe some of you might have had similar experiences. Maybe once. Maybe twice. Maybe never. Maybe it helps. Maybe it doesn’t.
In any case, if you’ve ever had similar experiences and tried to ignore them, try to become more aware of them and their meaning. Try to not ignore them for too long. Immerse yourself in these moments.
I strongly believe that it’s the universe trying to give us a few pointers. The universe tries to send us a message. A few pointers of what we should be doing. Of what our passion, our bliss and our gift to this world might be.
Maybe you’ve never experienced these moments. Maybe you have. And if you have, I’m 100% sure that you know exactly what I’m talking about. The thing is that I truly and deeply believe that these are the things we should be doing. These are the things we have to develop and put a hell lot of energy into. So that one day, they might develop into our gift to this world.
You shouldn’t necessarily do them right now. Or tomorrow. Or this year. Or next year. I think it can be a year long process. A process of getting ready for it. So that once you’re there, you know exactly what to do. If you haven’t experienced any of these moments, don’t worry about it. There are many other pointers and ways that might help you to find out what you should be doing..
19. Be inefficient
Every good cause is worth some inefficiency. — Paul Samuelson
Another way to find out what your gift to this world might be, is to do all sorts of different things. It doesn’t matter whether or not they’re related to each other. What matters is that you have to do the exact opposite of what everybody else is telling you to do. If I say you, I mean I. It seems to work for me. Maybe it also works for you. Doing all sorts of different things will increase the probability of finding your gift. Your passion.
On the other hand, if you only do the same things day in and day out, you will never find anything. It will only drain you. And suck the energy out of you. Sooner or later. I did all sots of different things over the past five years. None of them had anything to do with the things I did before. At least not at first sight. During my business studies I started a clothing company in China, while I was at the same time teaching English at Chinese and Japanese companies. Both things were not related to one another at all. But both things taught me some incredibly valuable lessons. Lessons that got me where I am right now (wherever that might be). If I didn’t do these things, I would probably never have written this book. Both things are now a huge part of my life.
I still love entrepreneurship. And sharing my experiences with others. Up until now I worked together with about 1000 entrepreneurs. Probably all of them failed. I don’t know. What matters is to start collecting YOUR pieces of YOUR puzzle.
One of the most important lessons I learned over the years is that most things can and will only grow organically. Bottom up. And not top down. Only if you allow things to grow, if you give them enough time and space to breathe, will they develop into the things they have to be. Following a rigid plan will make you miss all of the important iterations. Iterations that are necessary to eliminate things that don’t work. You need to eliminate the things that look good on paper (or in your head) because that’s never what’s going to happen in real life, unfortunately.
I still haven’t completely figured myself out. And I still haven’t found my “final” gift to this world. But I started collecting pieces of my puzzle. All of the things I did so far are and will probably be a part of it. Will be a part of my gift to this world. Even though I only have a vague idea about what it might look like in the end, I can now see a lot clearer than I ever did before. All I know is that being yourself and becoming remarkable takes time. And patience. And persistence. That’s why it’s so damn hard. There is no other way..
20. Look at your weaknesses
Stronger by weakness, wiser men become. — Edmund Waller
Looking back at what worked for me and trying to understand things in retrospect, I have to admit that most things I’m doing right now are the things that I struggled with when I was young. The things I pretty much sucked at.
The first time I gave a talk in English I got everything wrong. It was a big mess. I humiliated myself in front of 40+ people. When it was my turn to present, everybody started laughing and I didn’t know why. People were giggling for a few minutes. I had no clue what was going on. When I was done with the presentation my team mates told me that I said the exact same things that the guy before me said already. That’s how nervous I was. I didn’t even realize that I was repeating the exact same stuff.
Unfortunately, nobody told me about my mistake while I was presenting. I would probably not have told anyone either, it’s just too hilarious. Everybody was laughing and giggling. And I felt like getting smaller and smaller every minute. I felt like running away. But I couldn’t. It took about five years or so until I gave the next presentation in front of a large audience. That’s how scared I was.
I was also a pretty decent student in college. But there was one subject I particularly sucked at. I sucked at writing. I was among the worst students in my class. Always. Be it writing an essay, a report, analyzing poetry or what not. I never got a good grade. I almost failed high school at one point because of this. That’s how bad I was. After I graduated from high school it took me another 10 years to write again (except for a few tests maybe). That’s how scared I was.
Now fast forward a few years, all I’m doing day in and day out is writing and giving talks. And a lot of people tell me that my writings inspire them, whereas many others tell me that they hate it.
What I’m trying to say is that we often build prisons around ourselves that are based on past experiences. Bad experiences. Miserable experiences. Broken hearts. Hardship. Tragedies. Failure. But the truth is that what happened yesterday is most probably not true anymore today. That we can actually turn our past weaknesses, our past failures into success. I’ve seen this happen many times already.
Unfortunately, most of the time we get so used to these prison walls we built around ourselves, that we simply accept them as part of our lives. No way out. And we stay locked up in these prisons for many years. Sometimes forever. Just like I, for many years, stayed imprisoned in the belief that I was a bad writer. That I suck as a speaker. Until I realized that the walls that once seemed indestructible are only paper thin..
There’s a lot of other advice out there on what you could do to find your passion. To find your gift. And it can range from doing the things you loved when you were a kid, to doing the things you do when no one watches. I never really tried any of these things but I’m sure they might work equally well. After all, we’re all different and what works for me might not necessarily work for you..
21. The 6 steps to finding your passion
“The most powerful weapon on earth is the human soul on fire.” — Ferdinand Foch
Finding your passion is the basis for everything. It’s the basis for doing what you love. For being yourself. For becoming remarkable. For having an impact. For ultimately changing the world.
Doing things you don’t like might help you to change the car you drive. But that’s already about it. It won’t help you to change the world. And that’s what the next part of the book will be about. It will be about finding your passion. About a process that might help you to find your passion. Again, this is no blueprint. There is no blueprint for finding your passion. There’s only trial & error. And persistence. And patience. And of course failure.
The things I’m going to talk about are the things that worked for me. And many other people. That doesn’t mean that they will work for you. It’s just a first starting point on the path to yourself. On your path to the discovery of your true inner self. Your desires. Your capabilities. Your wishes. And ultimately your gift. The gift that might change the world..
#1 The best investment strategy on this planet
Invest in the human soul. Who knows, it might be a diamond in the rough. — Mary McLeod Bethune
The first and most important step on your path to finding your passion and uncovering your true self is to invest in yourself. You need to invest in yourself to buy yourself some freedom. Freedom equals time. Time to figure out what you really want in this life. Time to figure out what your gift to this world really is. What your real purpose is. Time to become good at something you’re passionate about. That’s the only thing you should buy this year. Your only big investment. It should actually be the biggest investment of your entire life.
And you’ll need a lot of time. You’ll need a lot of time to find your passion. Your purpose in this life. It doesn’t work over night. It usually takes many, many years. And its discovery and its cultivation is not linear. It’s many ups and downs. And then some more downs. It’s about willing to sacrifice a lot, while having no guarantee of ever getting anything back.
Buying yourself some time and ultimately some freedom requires you to give up many things. But it’s an absolute necessity. You’ll have to give up things like going out to that fancy restaurant. On things like that trip to that island. On things like that new car. Or these nice and shiny clothes. These are all things you might want to have right now. But do you really need them? Do you need them to figure out what you really want in this life? Do you really need them to be free? To lead a happy and fulfilled life? I don’t think so. Instead of helping, all of these things only offer a quick and temporary relief. All they do is distract you. They take away your focus from the things that really matter. They will only make you feel better for a short while. Deep down these things won’t make you happy. They won’t make you like your life, your job or your relationships some more.
It’s not about eliminating all of the small pleasures in your life. It’s about cutting the big and unnecessary items. If you’re a coffee enthusiast and you need a good cup of coffee or your triple chocolate frappucino (I don’t even know if this exists. It probably does), don’t try to save on these things. These are the things that you should use to reward yourself. Don’t save on small things. These things, if used in a smart way, might enable you to push yourself harder than ever before. These things can be your daily motivation. Your daily push. Your daily source of energy. Trying to eliminate those things will unconsciously lead to the wrong mindset. It will lead to a scarcity mindset. What you need instead is a mindset of abundance. A mindset where everything is possible. Where everything is plentiful.
Try to avoid big and unnecessary expenses. And use the money you save to break free. Use the money to buy yourself some freedom and ultimately some time. Time to figure yourself out. Time to figure out what you really want. Time to figure out what makes you happy. It doesn’t matter whether or not you need to save over a period of one year, two years, three years or more. Just keep the end goal in mind. Keep in mind that you’re doing all of this to ultimately break free. To break free from the prison you’ve been stuck in for many, many years. That’s the only thing you really need right now. Some freedom. Freedom to be yourself. That’s the only thing you owe yourself. That’s the one thing you crave deep down. The one craving you should give into.
But most people (maybe even you) try to avoid it. Instead you go faster and faster. You rush through life trying to ignore the stop signs. The faster you go, the higher the probability that you won’t see the stop signs. But they’re still there. You can’t ignore them forever. At one point you might crash.
And the only way to slow down and safely get where you need to be in life is to buy yourself some time. Some time to think. Some time to experiment. Some time to reflect. And you’ll need money for that and as much help and support as you can get. You don’t need a lot of money if you’re willing to live with the basics for a while.
Money comes and goes anyway. One day you might have it. The next day it might be all gone. And then the next day you might make it back again. Who knows? Money is a highly fluid thing. Time on the other hand is not. Time lost can never be made back. Money on the other hand can. Money can be replaced with money. If you lose money today you can make it back the next day. The next week. The next month. Or the next year. The money will still be exactly the same. No difference. But time not well spent can never be made back. Time you lost today rushing through life and doing things you don’t like, only to cover the fact that you’re not happy, is not time well spent. You will never be able to make back the time you lost today.
Today’s time can not be replaced with tomorrow’s time. It’s different “time”. And our time on this planet is limited. We only have a few years. So every second we waste doing something we don’t like can not be made back. No matter how hard we try. It’s gone forever. Time can not be replaced. No matter what. And if there’s one thing I learned in business school, it’s that one thing that can not be replaced, is worth a lot more than something that can be replaced. Hence, time is worth a lot more than money.
So instead of using your time to make unlimited amounts of money (doing things you don’t really enjoy doing), why not use the money you have right now to buy yourself some time today? Why not use it to buy yourself some freedom today, instead of tomorrow? Freedom to figure out what your purpose in this life is. Freedom to figure out what your gift to this world is. Freedom to figure out what makes you happy. What you can do to make other people happy. To improve other people’s lives. At the end of the day it’s about having the freedom to figure out what your time well spent is all about and then do it for the rest of your life..
#2 Be unprepared and start when you’re not ready
Do not wait; the time will never be ‘just right.’ Start where you stand, and work with whatever tools you may have at your command, and better tools will be found as you go along. — George Herbert
I suck as a writer. I know that I suck at it. Many English native speakers told me that my writing is really bad. That it’s not even high school level. Some of them told me that I should stop writing in English and switch to German. Unfortunately, I can’t. My German is even worse. But you know what? I don’t really care about it.
It’s not that I don’t like criticism. I actually love constructive feedback and I try to implement every feedback I get. It’s just that I don’t care about being perfect. I don’t care if people stop reading my stuff because they feel that it’s terrible. Because it has too many typos. I also don’t care about people talking shit behind my back. I don’t care if people don’t like the way I look, walk or talk.
What I do care about is trying to get better every single day. And I know that the day I’ll be perfect at anything will never come. I, and as a matter of fact all of us, we’re pretty bad when we start something new. And when we only start things once we’re perfect, we will never really start anything. We might be wasting and waiting our entire lives away.
You might never start that business. You might never write that book. You might never tell her that you love her. You might never quit that job you don’t like. What you’ll do instead is to wait for that perfect moment. Forever. Unfortunately, that moment will never come.
So get rid of your mask. Get rid of your mask of pretending to be perfect. You don’t need it. You don’t need to be perfect. Not being perfect is at the core of human nature. It’s a part of you. Of me.
To me, being human means to not be perfect. It means that you live your life no matter. That you accept the fact that you might suck at something and do it nonetheless. That you don’t wait for that perfect moment. But even more importantly, it means that you try to improve your game every single day. And that’s a prerequisite for finding your passion, for being yourself and becoming remarkable.
#3 It’s all about love
Do what you love; you’ll be better at it. It sounds pretty simple, but you’d be surprised how many people don’t get this one right away. — LL Cool J
I’ve been talking quite a lot about how to find the things you love and how you can turn these things into your passion. But I’ve never really talked about how you might know whether or not you really love something. Whether or not you’ll love doing something for the rest of your life. Whether or not that something might be your real passion. I’m going to change this now or at least I hope so. I’ll give you a few pointers that might help you to figure out whether or not you really love something.
When I wrote this, I was sick in bed for the past few days. I was barely able to move. I wasn’t able to do anything (ok, it wasn’t that bad). When I finally started to feel a bit better, the first thing I could think of while taking my morning walk, were ideas about things I could write about. I wrote down all of my ideas on a post-it. Within ten minutes both sides of the post-it were full of ideas. I also had to think about one blog post I wrote a while ago where I talked about how to find your passion. I basically concluded that finding your passion is about doing things that amaze you. That you love. That you would also do if no one paid you for doing them. While thinking about it some more, I got the feeling that this wasn’t it. That this wasn’t enough. That there has to be more to it. Because how the hell do you even know if you really love something? You might think that you love something for ten, twenty or thirty years and then all of a sudden you realize that you don’t. Boom! Gone. Forever. So while I was still in the mood, I decided to write down a few things that I believe are a pretty good indicator whether or not you really love something. Whether or not it’s worth it to put all of your energy into doing it.
# TRIAL & ERROR
A lot of people believe (including myself until just recently) that finding the things you love and are passionate about is a linear thing. That your passion has to be something you’ve been good at all of your life. I realized that the exact opposite is true. When I was young I was very good at all sorts of sports. I was good at football, basketball, track & field, you name it. I actually never lost a sprint race in my entire life. And you know what I’m doing right now? Every single day, I’m sitting in front of a laptop, writing all sorts of stuff. I’m doing the exact opposite of what I was good at back then. I always sucked at writing when I was young. I was really, really bad at it. I was one of the worst students in my class as I mentioned a bit earlier already.
Nonetheless, that’s exactly what I’m now doing every single day (or at least try to). And I guess the reason is quite simple: We’re not really interested in the things we can get easily. That’s at least true for me. We (or in fact I) lose interest in easy things quite easily. For most of us things have to be challenging. Every single day. If it’s not challenging enough we lose interest. Or we start to hate it.
Just like people say that men lose interest in women that are crazy about them. Women you don’t have to conquer. Just like people say that women are not interested in caring, loving and affectionate men (in the long run). They want a challenge. They want a man they can change. Even though this almost never really seems to work.
We all enjoy a little challenge. And the best challenge is to conquer someone, to become good at something we suck at and to prove someone wrong. I guess that’s human nature. We prefer taking up a challenge. A challenge that makes us feel alive, instead of feeling dead inside. At least until we reach a certain age. Then we tend to lower our standards and start settling for less than we actually deserve. Or are able to achieve..
# SICK IN BED
If what you’re doing is the first and only thing you can think of after you’ve been sick in bed for a few days, that’s probably quite a good indicator that you really love what you’re doing (especially when you’re not getting paid for it). For example, I could have thought about all sorts of things, instead of thinking about stuff I could write about once I finally felt better. A big fat steak for example. Mhhhh. Or getting out for drinks with friends. Yihaaaa! Going out for a party. You name it. But the first and only thing I could think of doing that day was writing. And nothing else..
# IF IT GETS DIFFICULT
The moment you start getting deeper into a subject that really matters to you, it’ll start to become difficult. Just like writing this book got harder every single day. When you start to care about something it usually means that you want to become really good at it. And that’s the moment when it gets difficult. And hard. And that’s where a lot of people quit. Because failing at something you deeply care about, something that’s important to you is not just a possibility. It’s almost guaranteed. So instead of embracing our fear we simply stop. We stop doing the things we care about when they get difficult. But once you hit that point you need to keep on pushing. No matter what. Because that’s the only way you can give your gift to this world. The gift this world so desperately needs. That’s the only way to mastery. To ultimately master yourself and your life..
If I don’t write, I try to read. I read because I know that I don’t know anything about writing. Fortunately, there are thousands of other people out there that know a hell lot more about writing than I do. I believe that only once you’re willing to accept the fact that you don’t know anything about your art, your work or as a matter of fact everything, does it mean that you truly and deeply care about it. That you really love it. That you want to master it. No matter what.
There were many things I was good at when I was young. I thought I knew everything about these things already. So I didn’t feel like learning some more. I never felt like putting in more effort. So I never got better at them. I never really mastered them. And at one point I just dropped them for good. Only once you’re able to leave your ego at the door and are willing to learn from the masters (and less skilled people), does it mean that you truly and deeply care about something. That you might ultimately love it..
# NO EXPECTATIONS
A good way to see whether or not you love what you’re doing is to ask yourself the following question:
Would I also do this if I didn’t get paid doing it?
That’s the ultimate question. If you say no, that’s quite a good indicator that you don’t really love what you’re doing. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying that everybody should work for free. I just feel that this is a good way to test how serious you are about it. In my point of view, to be absolutely sure that you love something means that you don’t have any expectations, whatsoever. This is an absolute zen-like way of seeing things, though. It’s really, really hard to get there.
I’m also struggling with this every single day. I expect something in return for my writing. I expect, no, I actually hope that people will like my writing. And that it makes them think about certain things from a different perspective. That they sort of start to rethink their now. Or that it at least motivates them to ask themselves questions they would otherwise not have asked themselves before.
I believe that if you truly love what you do, you stop thinking about what others might think about you. You simply don’t care about it anymore. What you start to care about instead are the people that think like you. What you start to care about is to get your thoughts and messages out there. No matter the consequences. No matter what people think about you. No matter the negative impact on your “reputation”.
You ultimately need to be willing to crash and burn with your ideas. You need to stop caring about gatekeepers, naysayers, critics and everybody else that wants you to continue living your life in prison. In society’s prison.
What happens when you do what you love, is that you’ll start to express your truest, inner most self and create things without thinking about the norm. You’ll start to create and do things that inspire others to do the same. You create new things, amazing things, unconventional things and things that not only break the rules, but create entirely new rules. Not only will you stop caring about social conventions, but you might even start changing a few people’s lives. Or the way they think about themselves. Or the world around them. That’s the true gift of doing what you love and giving back at the same time..
Finding and doing the things you love is not easy. Just like being yourself is never easy. You might lose some of your friends (or all of them), your girlfriend, your boyfriend or whatever. You’ll have to be willing to sacrifice a lot. And not just for a short period of time. Maybe forever. Who knows? I don’t. You might never be able to afford the same things you would have been able to afford if you stayed at your day job. If you continued doing the things you don’t like.
That’s the price you’ll have to pay. Nothing in this life is for free. And believing that doing what you love will one day allow you to live a similar or maybe even better life (financially speaking) than the one you would have lived if you stayed at your day job is just a big fat illusion. That’s exactly what it is. A big fat illusion. It might work out for some people. Will it work out for you? For me? I don’t know. Maybe. Maybe not. But probably not. Will it make you a happier person? Maybe. Maybe not..
# YOU BUILD YOUR LIFE AROUND IT
Doing what you love and being yourself will ultimately require you to build a life around the things you love. A life that allows you to still be able to somehow pay the bills while doing what you love. Because being able to pay the bills doing what you love might take many, many years. Or you might never be able to pay the bills. That’s why you shouldn’t quit your job right now and instead start saving as much as you can (or start planting your seeds).
The funny part about it is that you still have to believe in yourself. Not only will you have to believe in yourself, but you’ll also have to believe in your success, even though it’s totally ludicrous. Paired with a bit of realism, the best solution (at least for me) was and still is to build some stuff around my writing that somehow pays the bills. Even though none of it has really taken off, yet (including my writing). So you will not only have to focus all of you energy on doing what you love and becoming one of the best and most talented at your craft (because that’s the only way you might maybe one day be able to pay your bills) but you also need to build some stuff around it that pays the bills.
If that sounds like too much work and you think that this is too much for you, then this might already be quite a good indicator that this is nothing you really love doing. But who am I to be talking about all of this? Right, I’m a nobody. I’ve never achieved anything. You shouldn’t listen to me. Don’t believe me. You should never ever believe me. Just try. And see.
After having read all of this and you still believe that you really and truly love it, then just do it. Do it now. If you believe that you don’t love what you’re doing, do something else. Life is short. Don’t waste it doing something you don’t love. If you want to do what you love, don’t wait for tomorrow. Start today..
#4 The art of mastering yourself
“The first and best victory is to conquer self.” — Plato
Once you found something you love and pushed through all the noise, you need to become one of the best at it. You need to become the best at being yourself. That’s the only way to get noticed. That’s the only way you’ll ever get noticed. There’s no other way. Mediocrity is not an option. And it will never be an option if you want to stand out. There really is just one way to mastery. And it’s persistence. Persistence in showing up. Persistence in following up. Persistence in creating value. Persistence in studying your failures. Persistence in learning from your failures. Persistence in learning from others failures. Persistence in being yourself. No matter what. There’s no other way.
A real master is someone who is able to persist, especially during bad times. That’s why you, me, we, them, all of us might never become really good at anything. We give up too early. We tend to give up right before success might start to kick in. We tend to give up when the shit hits the fan. When it gets tough. We’ll never master anything. But the real masters continue, no matter what. Most of them even thrive during bad times. Times when you think you can’t possibly go on with this. Times when you don’t see the end of the tunnel any longer. That’s when the masters will push harder than ever before. Because that’s when everybody else quits. Except you. You keep on pushing.
You need to keep on pushing, no matter what. When you lost your job, you need to keep on pushing. When your boyfriend or girlfriend left you, you need to keep on pushing. When you lost all of your friends, you need to keep on pushing. When you lost all of your money, you need to keep on pushing. When the economy crashes, you need to keep on pushing. When all of your stocks tank, you need to keep on pushing. Again, who am I to tell you anything about life? You’re right. Don’t listen to me. I need to keep on pushing.
# 5 Keep on pushing. Always.
Life is really simple, but we insist on making it complicated. — Confucius
I hate it when things get complicated. Complicated is just another word for difficult. And difficult is often followed by mistakes, failure and a lot of other unpleasant things. So what most of us (and by that I mean I) usually do, as soon as something starts to get difficult is that we quit. Be it either mentally or for real. The biggest problem is that the mental part usually follows a lot sooner than the “for real” part. It takes quite some time for most of us to finally pull the trigger. Pulling the trigger is just way too scary. So instead of doing a quick cut we usually drag decisions along, which ultimately leads to being unhappy, pissed off at other people (or ourselves) and us hating the stuff we do.
Nonetheless, I feel that there’s another perspective to take into consideration here. The perspective that the things that are now difficult were somehow important to us at one point or the other. Things we cared about deeply. That really interested us. Be it the new job we loved when we just started. Be it the new relationship we started not too long ago. Or be it the new skill or language we started learning a while ago.
What usually happens along the way is quite fascinating and probably unique to human beings. Whenever we start to care about something and put in some effort, something interesting happens in our brains. It happens in a part of our brains that developed back in the days when we were still hunters and gatherers. A time when we were not yet at the top of the food chain. A time when we had to be very cautious about our surroundings. A time where every noise might have been something that was able to put our lives at risk. After all, there were a hell lot of dangers and predators out there. And to make sure that we don’t get into too much trouble our brains developed the amygdala, the so called lizard brain, as Seth Godin likes to call it. Back in the days it was responsible for our basic survival instincts, like running away when we hear an unknown noise and so on. Such as a tiger about to attack us. In case you want to know more about the amygdala or the lizard brain and how it works, feel free to check Wikipedia. I’m no scientist.
Today, this part of the brain is barely needed anymore. Nonetheless, it still tries to keep us safe and tries to protect us from potentially dangerous and harmful situations. The only difference is that most of the situations we get ourselves into today, aren’t really life threatening any longer. Still, the lizard brain is fighting for survival. So what it does today is what it did back in the days. It wants to protect us. It wants us to run away from every unknown situation. Every situation that might be harmful to us. That might put us in danger. And every time we start to go deeper into a subject that really matters to us, our lizard brain starts to kick in and fills our brains with all sorts of fears and doubts. Every time something starts to become difficult it tries to convince us that it’s just way too dangerous. That we might make a fool of ourselves. That we might fail. It wants us to quit. It wants us to leave the road less traveled and go back onto the conventional path. The path that’s easy, convenient and seemingly safe. All the lizard brain ultimately wants is to survive. So it does everything it can to get back to safety. To get us back to safe and familiar grounds.
It ultimately wants to protect us from failure. It wants to protect us from failing and falling into a deep hole. A hole we’re likely to never get out of ever again. Because that’s what’s likely going to happen if something you truly and deeply care about doesn’t work out. Regardless of all that failure porn that’s currently going on, failure or messing something up hurts. Quite a lot. It’s usually very devastating. Be it the business that crashes and burns. That job you start to hate. Or that relationship that’s slowly but steadily approaching its expiration date. It’s never easy. And that’s why you need to fight even stronger, once things start getting difficult. You shouldn’t give up. Never. You shouldn’t give in to the voice in your head. The voice that wants to protect you from unknown things. From potentially dangerous situations. Or failure. What’s going to happen if you constantly give in to that voice in your head is that you’ll never take any risk. That you’ll never experience anything remarkable. That you’ll never be able to really fall in love. That you’ll ultimately live a mediocre life and never achieve anything great.
So once you hit that point where fear, doubt and that voice in your head start to kick in, you need to keep on pushing. You need to keep on pushing because it’s a sign that you might truly and deeply care about the thing at hand. And one should never give up anything that touches ones heart only because it starts to get difficult at one point or the other. One should fight even harder than ever before. All things rare are hard. And this rare feeling of love doesn’t come very often in life. No matter what area of life we’re talking about..
#6 Lose yourself to find your true inner self
“Knowing yourself is the beginning of all wisdom.” — Aristotle
Not too long ago I was completely lost. The first few months after I quit my job back in the summer of 2013 were great. But then all of a sudden things started to change. I stopped seeing clearly. A lot of things got fuzzy. Too many things to do. Too many things on my mind. Too many worries. Too many doubts. But also way too many opportunities. Over the time, I somehow completely lost track of my life. I was confused. And the confused mind makes confused decisions, as someone a lot smarter than me once said. That’s pretty much what my life was all about for the next few months until I asked myself the following question:
“If this had been the last year of my life, would I be ok with the legacy I might leave behind?”
And when my answer was a clear “No”, I knew that I had to change some things in my life. That’s when I knew that I had to stop all of the “busy work” and focus on creating things. Things that last. Things that might maybe one day turn into a legacy. Into my legacy.
The first thing I changed was that I started writing in a way that was brutally honest, more transparent and a lot more vulnerable than ever before. I pretty much turned myself inside out and humiliated myself one blog post at a time. I also stopped trying to do what I thought other people wanted me to do. And during that process I somehow started to find my true inner self. My true voice.
Even though I still haven’t completely figured myself out, I feel that this period of not knowing what to do next, of being lost, was one of the best things that had ever happened in my entire life.
It forced me to think about what’s really important to me. It forced me to think about my legacy. About what I might be able to leave behind.
And then I started working on it. I still don’t know how exactly I want it to look like. But I’m more than happy that I started working on it. Unfortunately, most people only think about their legacy when it’s too late (it’s never really too late for anything though).
Over the past few years, where I lost and found myself time and time again, I realized a few things. I learned quite a lot about myself. Things that I feel like sharing with you. Things that helped me on my quest to finding my true inner self. Maybe some of these things will help you as well. Maybe they won’t..
# DON’T WAIT. NEVER.
Don’t wait until you figure yourself out. Don’t wait until you figured yourself out to think about your legacy. You will never really be able to figure yourself out if you don’t start to create things, whatever that might look like for you. Creating things is the only way to really figure yourself out.
# BE YOURSELF.
The only competitive advantage you have in this world today is to be yourself. Your diploma doesn’t matter. Your work experience doesn’t matter. The schools you went to don’t really matter. Actually, nothing really matters. The only thing that really matters is to be yourself. You’re unique. Nobody else is just like you. And that’s what you should bet on. BIG TIME. That’s what you should put all of your money on. Go all in on being yourself. And then build a monopoly around it..
# DON’T HAVE A CLEAR PLAN.
Having had a clear and too detailed plan would always have held me back from doing the things where I learned the most about myself. About life. I guess it’s about having some sort of vision about what you want to do and want to leave behind. Too detailed and too clearly defined goals and plans will usually make you too static, inflexible and you might miss out on some of the greatest and most life changing experiences. Having a clear plan takes away all of the fun and all of the unexpected and amazing things in life..
# REINVENT YOURSELF.
Always be in trial & error mode. Try to stay an amateur as long as you can and don’t become an expert. An expert will be stuck in his way of doing things forever. If you truly want to figure yourself out, you need to be experimenting. All the time. Until you find the one thing you want to do for the rest of your life. Or until you find the next thing you want to do for the rest of your life. Until you find your gift to this world. Your love of this life..
# TEST STUFF.
Everybody tells you that you need to focus on one thing only, right from the very start. They tell you that specialization is the key. But this is complete BS. How do you even know what to focus on? Let’s be honest here. We all know that none of us has a clue about anything, even though we’re all pretending like we do have a clue. It’s all a big fat lie. I’m a big fat lie. We’re all a big fat lie. And to me it seems that we still don’t have a clue about anything when we’re above 30. Maybe even 40. Or 50. I don’t know. What I do know though, is that it doesn’t really matter.
So how the hell do we even know what we really love doing? How the hell might we even be able to decide about what to focus on? There’s just one way. You need to do and test all sort of different things and see what really amazes you. What works and what doesn’t. And then you need to do it for a long time. And go all in..
# BE HONEST.
Be honest. Always! No matter what..
# HELP PEOPLE
Helping people, whatever that might look like for you, is the way to really figure yourself out. Helping other people is actually the best way to help yourself. If you help someone that someone will be grateful (sometimes). And realizing that you can really make a difference in people’s lives, no matter how big or small, is worth more than everything else in this world.
Helping people is the essence of everything. Feeling fulfilled. Being happy. Being satisfied. You name it. It beats everything. Especially having money (even though having enough money to get by wont hurt either). Life, after all, is like wandering through a labyrinth of choices where you’ll get lost from time to time. Where you absolutely need to get lost from time to time. Because that’s the only way to really figure yourself out. And trying to avoid getting lost is like trying to avoid the necessary passages on your journey to being found..
22. Offer equals demand or you’re out
Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will. — Frederick Douglass
The last few pages were about finding your passion, how to be yourself and how to do and find the things you love. Finding your passion is the first step on your path to become remarkable and to find yourself. Or maybe your second. Or our third. Or your fourth. I don’t know you. So I have no clue about how your steps will look like. It worked for me. It might work for you. Or it might not.
Nonetheless, finding your passion or something that you believe might be your passion is definitely not the last step on your mission to mastering the art of being remarkable. There’s a fine line between following your passion and being remarkable. They are not the same. Being remarkable only starts at the intersection of doing what your passion is and what the world really wants and desperately needs. Hence, being remarkable is a mix of your passion and the things the world needs. Because simply doing what you’re passionate about might not help anyone out there. If you’re passionate about playing video games, that’s something that won’t help nobody. You need to find a way to turn it into something the entire world can benefit from. But don’t get me wrong here. I’m not saying that you absolutely have to turn your passion into something bigger. You don’t have to offer your gift to the world. Needless to say that you can also keep it for yourself. You can simply turn your passion into a hobby and keep it that way. Maybe that’s the best way for you. Otherwise you might start to treat it as some sort of job. Still, if you’ve already put so much time and effort into finding your passion why not let the world benefit from your gift? Why not give it to the world? All it needs is to be open about tweaking your passion just a tiny little bit so the world might recognize your gift for what it really is. A gift to change people’s lives.
If you offer something the world truly and desperately needs, people will support you. But even more importantly, people will be inspired to do the same. To set out and try to find their own gift and give it to the world. And this again will inspire even more people.
People’s support can come in many different shapes and colors. If you do it long enough and become really good at it, people might at one point maybe even be willing to pay for your gift. But that will never happen over night. And it will never work if that’s your main objective. If you’re ready to tweak your gift just a bit so the market is able to recognize its true potential, both sides will be a lot better off.
I’m not talking about selling out or anything. I’m talking about doing something you love every single day. Doing something that makes you happy and simply adapting it to what the world really needs. Unfortunately, finding the intersection where passion, what the world really needs and finding a way to put it out there so that as many people as possible can benefit from it will take a lot of time. You’ll also need a lot of time tweaking it in a way that it’ll help as many people as possible.
Even some of the world’s most brilliant writers needed to adapt their work to their audience and the market’s needs. Good writers don’t just simply write about the stuff they want to write about. They constantly adapt their talent to the things the world wants to read about right at that very same moment. To put it in business school jargon: You need to tweak your offer in a way that your offer equals the market’s needs. Your offer has to serve the market’s demand. And not the other way round (even though that’s what a lot of people think and act like). You shouldn’t just put your offer out there and hope that the market likes it. That almost never works. If you still decide to do so, your gift might never be seen as a gift. It might never reach nobody. And most people might never realize that you and what you have to give to this world even exist. People might not be interested in it at all. People only care about themselves. They’re only interested in themselves. Most people act out of self interest. So give them what they want. What they need. What they crave..
Steven King didn’t become so successful just because he was a great writer. One of the reasons (and a very big one actually) was the fact that he knew exactly what people out there wanted to hear and read. He knew and knows exactly what his readers want to read. He knows his audience. He knows his target market and what the demand looks like.
Not getting the relationship between demand and offer right is one of the biggest reasons why a lot of artists from a few hundred years back, that are famous nowadays, weren’t famous when they were still alive. Even though they were already geniuses back then, people just didn’t enjoy them so much.
They were ahead of their time and weren’t willing (or able) to adapt their art to what the market valued back then. To what the market wanted to hear or read back then. Most of the people we now call geniuses were struggling for survival when they were still alive. The way they created their art was simply not relevant back in the days. They had to wait until after their death to find an audience that was ready for what they had to offer. The general public simply wasn’t interested in and ready for what they had to offer. I guess we all agree on the fact that it’s much nicer to experience one’s own breakthrough and success while still being alive.
And the need to adapt your offer doesn’t apply to artists only. It applies to pretty much everything and everyone out there. It applies to the entrepreneur, the employee, the manager and pretty much everybody else out there. And it’s not about changing your art, you style, your voice, your subject or anything. It’s about listening to what people are generally interested in. What the market is interested in. What resonates with people. What adds value to other people’s lives right now and not in the future.
Here’s an example. When I started writing, I basically wrote about entrepreneurship. Because that’s what interested me back then. What I realized over the years is that entrepreneurship is just a small subset of a much wider topic. It’s a subset of the topic of becoming free. Of doing what you want to do in your life. Of living a life you truly care about. Of creating and living your own life. And entrepreneurship is just a subset of it. It’s a tool. And why limit yourself to a tool? To a subset? The basics of the tool and the overall subject are still the same. The only difference is the size of the potential audience. The amount of the people you might be able to reach with your voice. That’s why I ultimately decided to not just write about the tool any longer. But to write about the general topic, the topic of being remarkable, finding your passion, being yourself, living a life you truly care about and ultimately becoming free.
That was my way of adapting my offer to make sure that as many people as possible could experience my “art”. And that’s what you should do, too. That’s what I feel everybody should do who wants to find a way to follow his or her passion and make this world a better place.
23. How to stay remarkable. Forever.
Someone told me something that stuck with me: ‘You have to envision your life, and then go backwards.’ I’ve been living by that motto for a while, so I see where I need to be. Now I’m just backtracking and trying to get back up there. — Bruno Mars
The thing about being remarkable and being yourself is that it’s nothing that we achieve all of a sudden and then we can sit back, relax and enjoy the show. That’s not what it’s all about. Being remarkable is about being flexible and about being able to adapt to an ever changing environment over and over again. It’s about reinventing yourself over and over again to make sure you stay relevant. It’s about mastery and staying an amateur at the same time. It’s about learning. About willing to push forward, especially when you think that you’ve “already paid your dues.”
Once you’ve reached your goal, you shouldn’t stop. Instead, you have to keep on pushing. But how the hell do you reinvent yourself over and over again? How does one stay remarkable? It’s not easy, that’s for sure. But it’s possible. What matters is that every time you either feel stuck or achieved something great and feel like never doing anything remarkable ever again, you need to keep on pushing. No matter what.
In the past years I had to reinvent myself at least 5 times and I still don’t really know how it works. I’ve turned from entrepreneur to employee. From employee to writer. From writer to blogger. From writer and blogger to speaker and back to entrepreneur. Now I do all of these things at the same time. I gave talks on pretty much every topic out there. I’ve talked about marketing, sales, entrepreneurship, failure, success, how to pitch investors and spiritual stuff. I strongly believe that the path and the willingness to reinvent yourself over and over again is in itself already something remarkable.
Reinventing yourself is never easy. And it will probably never be easy. Reinventing yourself over and over again is really tough. That’s why so many people struggle with it. That’s why I struggle with it every day. But you need to keep on pushing. I need to keep on pushing. Every single day. I don’t have a clue about what I’ll be doing next year. Maybe I’ll become a farmer in Inner Mongolia and enjoy watching herds of wild horses out in the plains. Enjoy a light summer breeze. Who knows? What I know for sure though is that I’ll have to keep on pushing things forward to be able to grab every opportunity along the way. I’ll try to reinvent myself as much and as often as I can, while not losing sight of the overall vision. Because that’s the only way to stay relevant. The only way to stay remarkable.
The other day someone on Quora asked if it’s possible to create your own luck. In fact I’m a strong believer that you can make your own luck. And what I just wrote is exactly how you make your own luck. By reinventing yourself, by exposing yourself to opportunities over and over again. The more you expose yourself to luck, the higher the probability that you’ll be lucky one day. And this is how you increase the probability of being lucky. Maybe you’ll be lucky one day. Maybe not.
But by exposing yourself to luck over and over again will you ultimately increase the probability of finding your passion, the things you love and your gift to this world. That’s how you create your own luck. You don’t create your own luck by sitting at home or in your cubicle and wait for luck to magically show up. This never happens.
I’m still far away from having it all figured out. But over the past few years I found a few things that have helped me whenever I felt stuck. Whenever I didn’t know what to do next or whenever I had to reinvent myself due to whatever changes in environment (or myself). I’m going to share the three most important things I’ve learned with you right here. The things that helped me to reinvent myself over and over again. They always were and always will be the basis for everything else to come. I hope that these things will help you as much as they helped me.
# LIVE LIFE BACKWARDS
Every time I found myself in doubt, was confused about something, felt stuck and didn’t know what to do next in my life or didn’t know whether or not I should do something, I tried to picture my older self. I picture myself sitting on my veranda (or a street intersection), reflecting about my life. Reflecting about the things I did and the things I didn’t do. If the thing I’m currently thinking about is something my older self might regret not having done and I wonder “what would have happened if”, I usually just do it. No matter what. No matter what the consequences might be. No matter the price I might have to pay in the future. It’s just that I don’t want to live a life that leaves me with too many “what ifs” and a lot of regrets. I want to live a life where at the end of my time I can be sure that I did everything I could have done to live a more meaningful life (whatever that might be).
# PICTURE THE WORST CASE SCENARIO
Picture it. Really. Think about what the worst thing is that could possibly ever happen. But don’t just think about it for a second. Think it through. Think about it for at least five minutes. That’s what most people don’t do. Most people will usually have images in their heads without really and realistically thinking it through. Without really thinking the worst case scenario through.
The images in our heads are mostly images the news, media and what not planted there. Dead people everywhere. Homeless people. Murder. Rape. That’s the stuff the media plants in our heads.
Now try to be honest with yourself for a second. What’s the worst thing that could possibly happen to you when you do something that might have a potential downside but also a huge potential upside?
In almost every case, every decision you take won’t be able to have such a huge impact that it might lead to your own death, someone else’s death, you having to live on the streets, ending up in prison or losing everything you have. In case any of your decisions might really and realistically lead to one of the above mentioned things, then don’t do it. It’s not worth it.
Every time I picture myself and think my own worst case scenario through, it usually boils down to something like this: I have to move back in with my mom, live a life with less things until I get back up again (which happened to me not too long ago). And honestly speaking my worst case scenario isn’t really that bad. And yours probably isn’t either.
When I had to move back in with my mom I got the chance to get to know her a lot better and was able to show her how thankful I actually am that she gave birth to me and helped me to get back up again every time I needed some help. And the fact of having to give up many material things is usually not that bad either. As Brad Pitt famously said in Fight Club:
“At some point the things you own start to own you.”
So ask yourself the question about how your “realistic” worst case scenario really looks like. And then go all in..
# EVERY DECISION LEADS TO NEW OPPORTUNITIES
Over the years I realized that every decision I make will result in many other decisions and opportunities that I didn’t think of before. Or even thought possible. I know it’s tough to accept this kind of “laisser faire” attitude towards life. We all love to be in control. To know what’s next. But let’s face it. If you always want to control things, know everything and be able to anticipate what’s next, you’ll only be able to thrive towards the things you can think of right now. Towards the things you thought possible. You’ll ultimately limit yourself.
If you always try to control and predict the future, you will never be able to achieve more than you think you’re capable of achieving right now, which is usually very little. You’ll never push your boundaries. You’ll never try to achieve the impossible. Even if you try and don’t achieve the impossible, you’ll usually end up achieving a lot more than you initially thought you were capable of. That you thought possible.
If you’re always trying to control everything, you’ll operate under a fixed set of criteria. A fixed mindset. An imaginary set of criteria that only exists in your head. As a matter of fact there are millions of things that can happen, that we can achieve, that we never ever have thought possible. That we might never even knew existed. That’s why I believe that trying to always be in control will tremendously limit your potential and your opportunities before you even started exposing yourself to some of them.
Here are some examples from my own life:
- I never thought I would live in China for almost two years, start a company there, teach English in corporations and learn some Chinese. If someone had told me this story five years ago I would have thought that this person must have lost it. And it all started because of one single decision. And then all sorts of other decisions and opportunities popped up.
- When I started working as a management trainee for one of the largest telecommunication companies in Germany I had many doubts about whether or not I should do it. But I just did it. I wanted to know the “what if”. And you know what. Hundreds of new opportunities came up. If I didn’t join this company, I wouldn’t be doing what I’m doing right now. I wouldn’t have lived in Berlin. I wouldn’t have lived in New York. I wouldn’t have written a book. I would most certainly not be writing this book right here. These are now all parts of the puzzle.
- When I decided to quit my job in the summer of 2013 I had no clue about what exactly would happen next. I actually didn’t even know what I would be doing or how exactly I would be making a living (still haven’t properly figured this out, yet). Back then I only knew that I wanted to write a book about my past experiences. And all of the things that happened afterwards, happened because of this. Everything I do right now happened because of this one decision. This one opportunity I created for myself.
There are a lot of other things that helped me (and still help me today) to reinvent myself over and over again. To stay relevant. But these three things (live life backwards, picture the worst case scenario, every decision leads to new opportunities) are the basis for everything else that helped me to reinvent myself over and over again. To swim against the stream. To do the unexpected. To surprise myself. At the end of the day it’s all just a numbers game. The more you expose yourself to opportunities, the more you’ll figure out what you really want in life. What your true passion is. What you love. And then maybe at one point you’ll be lucky. You’ll be lucky and find your passion. And you’ll fall in love with your life. And then, maybe (but only maybe), you’ll also be able to truly and deeply fall in love with someone else..
24. The ultimate cheatsheet to freedom
Nobody can give you freedom. Nobody can give you equality or justice or anything. If you’re a man, you take it. — Malcolm X
A lot of people asked me on my blog, on Facebook and on Twitter about a possible step-by-step guide on how to be yourself and on how to really invest in your future and buy yourself some freedom. That’s why I decided to seize the opportunity and include some of my thoughts on this one right here. It’s far away from being complete. It should serve as inspiration. To see what’s possible. And what’s not.
The stuff I’m going to talk about is the stuff that worked for me. Actually, it’s mostly stuff I did wrong and wish I had done differently. It would have saved me lots and lots of time and money. Maybe it’ll help you. Maybe it won’t. What it does for sure though is that it will help you getting started. And all of this is not about quitting your job. It really is about planting your seeds. It’s about spreading your risk and proactively creating opportunities for yourself and the people around you. And planting your seeds can come in all different shapes and colors. Here are a few things you can start doing today to start planting your seeds:
- Connect two people you think might get along and see the magic happen.
- Help someone out that will clearly never be able to pay you anything back.
- Start writing down your thoughts on a piece of paper or notepad.
- Launch a side project and work on it for an hour every day.
- Read all sorts of books. And especially read books about death.
- Start creating things (a painting, a poem, an article, DIY stuff, etc.).
- Try to give a small present and surprise someone you care about.
- When you’re caught up in the loop and didn’t do anything useful, go for a walk.
- If you’re really hardcore: sell your smart phone and get a cheap prepaid one.
That’s the stuff I’m trying to do every single day. Needless to say that I constantly fail at doing so. And I will also guarantee you that none of this will work. At least not in the short run. It’s really all about planting your seeds, spreading your risk, creating opportunities and being patient. And persistent. All of the seeds you plant take a really long time until they might flourish and become a strong enough tree. There is no overnight success. So you’d better start today. And again, most of these seeds will never turn into a strong enough tree. But maybe one day, one of your seeds might develop into a big enough tree. A tree that will offer hundreds or thousands of people shelter. A place to live. A place to relax. A place to rejuvenate. And maybe one day one of these seeds might make you a free man. Help you to break free. Help you to create your own freedom. And other people’s freedom..
So don’t listen to anybody that tells you to quit your job right away. Always try to keep in mind why people are saying the things they say. They mostly say the things you want to hear. Always try to understand their agenda. There’s always a hidden agenda. You just need to look close enough to find it. These days, a lot of people out there write and talk about quitting your job and how amazing it is to do your own stuff and to be your own boss. The dream! I’m guilty of this crime, too (sometimes). I totally get the idea of how awesome it is to travel 20 countries and build a business at the same time. I’m actually working on something similar, with the only difference that I’m not successful, at all. What all of these stories usually leave out are the times when it was rough. When you were down on your knees. When nothing seemed to work out. When you were about to quit.
I know working a job can be a horrible thing too and it will in many cases make you feel miserable. I felt the same way back in 2013. That’s why I decided to quit my job. Today, I feel that no one should quit their job without some sort of backup plan or safety net. Just for the fun of it, here are a few signs that ultimately led me to quit my job back then. Maybe you feel something similar. You’re not alone..
- When my alarm rang in the morning, I didn’t feel like getting up. Ten more minutes. Until ten more minutes ended up in half an hour or even more.
- When I got home from work I didn’t have any energy left to do anything. Doing mind numbing things that were pointless sucked the energy out of me.
- I felt like I had a lot more potential than this. I felt like this can’t be it. I felt like there must be more to life than this.
- Whenever someone called me on my phone, I didn’t feel like picking up. Usually I ended up picking up nonetheless and felt even more like not picking up the next time someone called. Vicious circle..
- Whenever I got an email where I had to get in touch with other people, I felt like dying. I tried to ignore it as long as possible. Only to end up sending an email telling the other person that I had no clue.
And a few more things. These are all perfect signs that you might not like your job. That you should even consider quitting your job. Having gone through all of this I learned some very valuable and also very painful lessons. And the first and most important lesson is that you should not quit your job. No matter what. If you resent your job, your life, your boss, your colleagues or feel like you’re capable of doing great things in your life, I recommend that you don’t quit your job (at least not right now). What I recommend doing instead are some of the things below (actually all of them, if possible). These are the skills and things you’ll ultimately need to become free and to start planting your seeds. I strongly believe that it’s a lot better to start working on planting your seeds when you still have a job (and a regular income). Here are a few things worth considering..
# SELL. SELL. SELL
If you’ve never ever sold anything in your life, it will be pretty tough to learn it while you’re trying to build a product, a service or what it is that you’re planning to do. Creating your art and being able to sell your art are two entirely different things. You need to learn how to do both of them (and especially the selling part) before you jump right into quitting your job and being excited about creating your art.
# DON’T BUILD THINGS
Don’t spend months and months on building your world changing product, service, painting or novel. Instead, get used to creating small things and ship them as soon and as often as possible. Actually, you should try to do things that don’t have anything to do with your idea. This will take away the fear of getting your work out there. Every time you put something out there, people can (and will) judge you and the art you created and that’s pretty damn scary. And the only way to get used to exposing yourself, of standing naked in front of a large crowd, is by doing it over and over again. So don’t get trapped in your big vision of changing the world, which might in the end lead to you wasting years of your life, only because you were afraid of standing in front of a large crowd, naked..
Your network is the most important asset you have. In many cases it’s even more important than your product or the big idea you have to change the world. If you have a great idea but no network, you’ll end up getting ignored by everybody else. Actually, no one will realize that you even exist.
# LEARN THE TOOLS
Don’t just fantasize about that huge Facebook campaign that will go viral. Or your bad ass SEO campaign. Even worse, don’t write it down in your business plan, your project proposal or what not without knowing what you’re talking about. If you’ve never ever used any of these tools, you pretty much base your entire life on contingencies. You base your idea’s, your product’s or what not strategy on a huge gamble. You have no clue whether or not it might ever work out. Not talking about the fact that you don’t even have a clue about how to use any of these tools. To me, that sounds like a huge gamble. It actually sounds like going to Las Vegas, taking all of your life time savings with you and joining a poker table while you’ve never even played a second of poker in your life..
# START WITH WHY
At the end of the day we all want to be free. Free to do whatever we want to. And I’m not talking about the free where you sit on the couch all day and don’t do shit. No, I mean the type of free where you only do what you love because you don’t have to worry about money anymore. That kind of free. If you quit your job only to start working on something that you think might make you a hell lot of money to be a free person, that’s probably a bad reason. The probability that you’re going to be successful is almost zero. Also, the time it’ll take (5+ years) in case you beat the odds and are successful, will start to feel like an eternity if you only do it to get rich. You need to do it because you love it. You need to do it because it’s the first thing you think about in the morning. And the last thing you think about before you go to bed. If you don’t love it, it will feel just like another job. It will feel like the job you just quit. Even worse. It will feel like a job but you’re not getting paid for it. So if you quit your job and start working on something, make sure that you do it for the right reasons. And money is usually a bad reason. Because you might never make any money with it.
# LOW HANGING FRUITS
If all you want is to become free, to do the things you love, try to look for the easiest way possible. I know this is a hard thing to do in our over-educated society where the most sophisticated, most brilliant and most innovative people get trophies. Similarly successful people that achieved their success through less innovative and less sophisticated ways will be looked down on. It doesn’t matter if the jobs they created or the amount of value they created for society are the same. People will always look down on them. So if the one thing you want is to be free, free to decide what to do with your life, I’d suggest that you ignore everybody that thinks that this is a poor way of doing things. Instead, look into the easiest ways possible to make some money. And once that thing works out you can start working on that hard thing. Or that charity. Or that passion of yours. Or what not. Always keep your eyes open for the low hanging fruits. How do you find them? By learning all of the available tools first (see earlier)..
Before you quit your job this year, next year or the following year, try to save as much money as possible. You’re going to need it. If you think you’ll need 2 months of expenses on your bank account, have 10+ months of cash on it. If you think it’ll take a year, make sure you have two years of expenses worth on your bank account. It will always take a hell lot more money until you reach the point where you want to see yourself in a few months. What’s going to happen if you don’t have enough cash is that you’ll have to do freelancing gigs to pay the bills. And these freelancing gigs will always consume a lot more time than you think. Always! And then it’ll take away your focus from what’s really important. Being a freelancer is a business in itself already. And mastering two full time businesses or two full time projects at the same time is almost never a good idea..
# START MARRIAGES
Use the time you have to connect the people you already know. Don’t hoard your contacts on LinkedIn and wait for that one moment where they might come in handy. Because that moment will never come. In case that moment comes, in one year, two years or even more, people won’t remember you. So instead, start connecting people. Maybe they’ll end up getting married. Maybe they’ll make business together and end up making millions. Or maybe they’ll just talk shit about you behind your back. It doesn’t matter. What matters is that you make sure they will remember you in case you might need to get in touch in a few years. When you want to quit your job for example. Or start that business..
# BUILD A FAN BASE
Before you quit your job, start building a follower base. Start building the demand for your product or idea before you even have it. This way you can easily test whether or not the market really needs and wants your idea. Your gift. Build a simple landing page, send traffic to it and see if people sign up. And then start sending newsletters. Once you established a relationship based on trust, once people started interacting with you, try to sell them something. Trust first. Then sales. And you can easily do all of this while you still have a day job. In case you don’t know how to send traffic to a landing page or a website, go back to the beginning of this post where I talk about learning the tools you need to succeed.
That’s the only stuff that will help you to become a free person one day. Or you work for 20+ years and wait until someone gives you a hell lot of money to manage. Which is not very likely to happen. As a matter of fact, no one ever got rich, was able to buy herself some freedom, became famous or successful by earning a salary. That just doesn’t work. The people paying your salary will always make sure that you earn just enough to get by. That you improve your life quality little by little by increasing your salary step by step. Unfortunately, the improvement of your living standard will almost always eat up that increase in salary. So you’ll never be able to save enough to buy yourself some freedom..
# GET PAYING CUSTOMERS
Maybe you can even convert some of your first fans into paying customers. Into people that actually transfer real money to your bank account. That way you have a first indicator that your idea might really work. You’ll have the first proof that someone is willing to pay money for your idea, product, service or art. It’s a lot easier to quit your job once you already have paying customers lined up. And once you know this, your business or project (or whatever you want to do) won’t be based on pure assumptions anymore. This can be a really comforting feeling..
# CONFIDENCE FOR FREE
Not all of us are blessed with the confidence of a Brad Pitt or his looks as a matter of fact. So take every opportunity you get at your current job (or university or whatever) to get more experienced in dealing with people, selling your ideas or yourself and gain more confidence. Join an organization like Toastmasters where you can train your presentation skills or do all the things at your job that nobody else wants to do. Try to do whatever it takes to become better at your craft. No matter what.
Because you’re going to need the experience when you’re on stage trying to convince people to buy your product, your service, your art or when you’re trying to find someone to invest in your idea or company.
Take every opportunity to train these skills inside the “safe” environment at your job or school. Be the guy or gal that does all the extra work people are afraid of. What’s the worst thing that could happen anyway? The worst case is that you lose your job. That’s what you wanted anyway, so no big deal. The best case is that people discover your true potential and make you a mind blowing offer for a new and awesome position (sort of a big deal). And if everything goes according to plan, you won’t get fired or crazily promoted. But you’ll be a lot better prepared for the ride that’s about to come. The ride that might ultimately allow you to become a free person. The ride that might change the world.
These are all things you could do this year to start working on your freedom, instead of quitting your job, head over heels. You can definitely start doing all of this stuff once you quit your job. But mastering these skills will take a hell lot of time and take away your focus from the things that really matter. So if you can work on these things before you actually quit your job why not start working on them right now? And while you keep your job, you can start planting your seeds and observe which of the seeds turns into a strong enough tree. A tree that might allow you to quit your job one day. That will allow you to devote all of your time to finding your passion. To finding your gift. And to give it to this world. Maybe you’ll find it this year. Maybe next year. Maybe never. Who knows? But it’s definitely worth trying..
25. The one thing you should never do
I hated every minute of training, but I said, ‘Don’t quit. Suffer now and live the rest of your life as a champion.’ — Muhammad Ali
You should not quit your job, at least not right away. Or tomorrow. Or this year. As a matter of fact all the self help books out there are lying to you. Even I am lying to you while writing this. The entire world is lying to you. Everything you read about following your passion is complete BS. You won’t be able to pay your bills by just following your passion and being yourself. That just doesn’t work. It’ll take many years until you might be able to pay your bills by following your passion. Every blog, book, magazine or person telling you that you can live a happy and fulfilled life with no worries is lying to you. They are in the business of selling you dreams. I’m in the business of selling you dreams. That’s how we make money. That’s how I make money (in case you paid for this book). People make money by telling you that all of this is possible. That it’s easy. That you can live your dream. That you might one day be able to become your dream, be happy, feed your family, buy a house and become free.
Every second you spend reading this stuff people make money. You need to stop reading this stuff! Stop reading my blog posts. As a matter of fact, you should also stop reading this book. Seriously, you need to stop it right now. Go for a walk instead. Enjoy nature. Call your parents. Your friends. Or go for a run. The more you buy into this stuff and the more time you spend on people’s blogs or read their books, the less likely it is that you’re ever going to live your dream. It will only pull you away from living a life you care about. Your life. And instead it puts more and more money in people’s pockets. Into the pockets of the people that are trying to sell you dreams. It takes away your focus from planting your seeds to watching and listening to others planting their seeds. If you don’t plant your own seeds you will never ever be able to live your dream and create your own freedom. You will never be able to be yourself.
Instead you’ll just become one of these dreamers, an admirer, a passive participant of this entire dance. You become the person watching everybody else dance. And you’ll be stuck watching everybody else dance. You’ll be stuck watching everybody else planting their seeds. You need to stop this. Stop wasting your time and become a dancer instead. Join the dance. Plant your seeds. Watch them grow. Fall in love. Break someone’s heart. Get your heart broken. Fall into a deep hole. And then get back up again. Love this life. Love your life. Hate yourself and then love yourself.
What you need to do is to get (or keep) a regular job that pays as much money as possible. As soon as you can. And then you have to save as much as possible. No big items anymore. Live on a shoestring. Don’t be a mindless consumer. Be a thoughtful producer instead. Reward yourself for achievements. Don’t cut the stuff that’s good for you. That makes you happy. Like that triple frappuccino. And stop buying the stuff you don’t need. The stuff you know you’ll be upset about having bought the moment you come home. As a matter of fact the only way I’m able to do what I’m doing right now is because I did exactly this. I worked a corporate job where I earned good money, had a free apartment and so on. I saved about 70%+ of my income during a period of 18 months. Did I have to live a miserable life? No, not at all. I just stopped being a mindless consumer. And once I had enough money on the bank I quit. I’m not saying that you have to save 70%+ of your income. That would be insane. I’m insane. Instead save what’s possible. Stop going out to restaurants. Stop going out on the weekends. Stop binge drinking with your friends. Stop wasting hundreds of dollars in clubs and bars every weekend. You will end up too drunk to pick up someone from the opposite sex anyway. In case you do, you will probably not remember anything. Or regret it the next day. And stop telling yourself that you deserve all of this stuff as some sort of compensation for doing things during the week that you hate. This will only reinforce the entire process. And you might sink deeper and deeper into a dark hole. Work on being able to only do the things you love. It will take a lot of time to get there. It took me more than two years. And I’m still not there yet. You need to get started, right now!
26. How to be rich even when you’re a failure
You might not make it to the top, but if you are doing what you love, there is much more happiness there than being rich or famous. — Tony Hawk
Needless to say that a life where you’ll do the complete opposite of what everybody else out there is telling you to do, will be incredibly difficult. Trying to buy yourself some freedom to find your passion, your purpose, yourself and your gift to this world will be the toughest thing out there. I’m not saying that it’s impossible, it’s actually very possible. But it needs a lot of time, persistence, willingness to live a life full of sacrifice and some luck.
While writing these lines I’m 30 years old and I still feel like I haven’t achieved anything in life. I’m a totally ordinary guy. I don’t even have a place of my own. I haven’t had one for the past six years. I’ve lived in many different places spread across three continents. I sometimes feel like a nomad. When I’m in my hometown in Munich I sleep at my mom’s house. When I’m not, I usually stay at hostels or AirBnBs all over the world. Sometimes I live in furnished apartments when I stay longer at one place. I never bought any furniture in my life. At the same time a lot of the people around me start getting married and buy houses. I can’t even properly take care of my own shit. I probably make less than a third of what people my age make. I guess it’s safe to say that I’m a complete failure, at least measured in traditional terms. Measured in terms of me at the age of 18 imagining how my life might look like when I’m 30 years old. Still, I feel that I have more than enough (even though it looks like I don’t have anything).
Sometimes, I am really amazed by the sheer abundance in my life. I feel like I have more than I could ever make use of. But it was a long way to get there. It was a long way to realize this (even though I still worry about money from time to time). And it was an even longer way to implement this way of living and making it a part of my daily life. Living on a shoestring while everybody else around you starts buying Porsches and gets married will never be easy.
Over the past few years lots of people asked me how I do it. How I manage it all. So here are a few things that help me to feel rich, even though I don’t have a lot (measured in traditional terms). Things that help me to relentlessly continue being myself. I’m not there yet and it’s still a long way to go. But I’m very confident that one day I might get there. Or not. Who knows?
What I try to do at least once a day is to be grateful. Grateful for all of the things I experienced during the day. Be it the nice breakfast I had, the coffee I drank, the friend I talked to, the inspiring chapter of a book I read, the people that commented on a blog post or the nice dinner I had. It takes me about 2–3 minutes every day to reflect about the things I’m grateful for. And the list is usually twenty to thirty items long. I guess feeling rich is all about being conscious about all of the amazing things that we usually take for granted. It’s about being conscious about the abundance that surrounds us. About life’s abundance, while getting rid of a scarcity mindset at the same time. And I have to say that this short exercise helps me every single time. Every time I’m done listing the things I’m thankful for, I realize how the corners of my mouth start to form one of the most beautiful shapes on this planet earth. A shape that can decide about whether or not we will like someone. A shape that makes people fall in love. A shape that can stop wars. A shape that can save people’s lives.
The worst thing you could do is to not share anything with the world. Be it that idea you have for a business, that one brilliant thought you just had or this amazing thing you just experienced. What’s going to happen when you keep your ideas or thoughts for yourself, when you protect them and treat them like a treasure and something very valuable is that you’re automatically limiting the amount of ideas you’ll have. You’ll automatically create a scarcity mindset. A mindset where there will only be this one idea, this one thought and nothing else. This one perfect thing. It’s so precious that it’ll keep your mind’s bandwidth busy all the time. No time and bandwidth for other thoughts.
What happens when you share your ideas with the world instead, is quite the opposite. You’ll come up with hundreds of other ideas. New ideas. Fresh ideas. You’ll develop an abundance mindset and get rid of the scarcity mindset. Don’t believe me? Just try. I never thought that this might be true. But ever since I started writing down my ideas and I started sharing them with the world, I started having many more ideas. Ideas for businesses. Ideas for blog posts. Ideas for books. Whatever. And that’s why you absolutely need to get your ideas out there. As many and as as soon as possible. And it doesn’t matter whether or not they’re good or bad. There are no good or bad ideas. One idea is just the basis for many other ideas. You need to get your ideas out of your system.
That’s the only way to come up with more ideas. To become better at coming up and crafting ideas. And maybe one day you’ll hit a home run and have that one game changing idea. And then you’ll be ready. Because then you’ll have hundreds of other ideas on how to get that idea out there, how to get it in front of as many people as possible, how to find customers, how to change the world and so on. Only by sharing your ideas, your work and your art with the world will you be able to leverage the abundance of your brain’s power and become an idea machine. There really is no other way.
# DONE LISTS.
Getting things done apps and to do lists are super popular these days. What they usually do (at least to me) is that they limit us. They limit us to only do the things that someone else told us to do. Or they limit you to do the things you decided to work on a week ago. Or yesterday. Or this morning. These lists completely take away every flexibility and our ability to question the tasks at hand. It’s on the list, so it has to be done today. No matter whether or not it even makes sense. To do lists also kill our creativity (that’s at least what they usually do to me). The worst thing about them is that they usually make us feel miserable in case we weren’t able to tick all the boxes, which happens almost every day. At one point we end up becoming slaves of these lists.
A great way to solve this is to use done lists instead. These lists are basically lists where you write down all of the things you’ve done during the day. I read about this a while ago on James Altucher’s blog. So instead of having a to do list, you’ll have a done list. Be it the 30 emails you sent, the ten people you called, or the five proposals you wrote and sent out. Or the friend you met for lunch. It doesn’t matter. Write it all down. In the end it’s about visualizing all of the things you did. Even when they weren’t successful. It’s about realizing that we do a hell lot of things. And when you do a hell lot of things at the same time it’s usually pretty hard to see or even measure the progress you made. Not to say that it’s almost impossible.
What to do lists essentially do, is that they enforce negativity, whereas done lists do the exact opposite. They enforce positivity. And happiness. Having “done lists” will ultimately make you feel a lot better about yourself, your work, your achievements and your progress. And you’ll be able to see all of the things you’ve done and achieved during a single day. This can be up to a few dozen things a day and adds to the general feeling of abundance. Of feeling rich..
# DON’T COMPARE.
Whatever you do, never ever compare yourself to other people. This might be the single most important thing if you want to be rich, even when you’re a failure. There’s nothing more limiting than trying to live someone else’s life. Not only will it make you feel miserable, it will also drastically limit your number of possibilities. When you see someone “successful” doing this or doing that, what’s going to happen is that you’ll see this as the only way to feel rich and fulfilled. Your mind will be on autopilot. You’ll try to do the same things. But in reality there are millions of other ways to feel and be rich. So don’t limit yourself by comparing yourself to other people. Use it as some sort of inspiration. Look at all the different ways there are and then experiment, combine them and find your own way to be and feel rich..
I think that at the end of the day it’s all about creating a mindset of abundance. A mindset where there is enough of everything for everybody. And while everybody else is stuck in their scarcity mindset, you’ll be one of the few that can benefit from all of the opportunities out there. Because nobody else will realize that these opportunities even exist. Everybody else will be busy ticking boxes, while you’ll be sharp and ready to seize every opportunity. What’s going to happen in the long run is that you’ll essentially become an opportunity machine and constantly create opportunities for you and the people around you. It’ll be a matter of time until you succeed, feel and become rich (mentally, financially, spiritually or whatever) while everybody else is away..
27. The one thing that might kill you
“Somebody should tell us, right at the start of our lives, that we are dying. Then we might live life to the limit, every minute of every day. Do it! I say. Whatever you want to do, do it now! There are only so many tomorrows.” — Pope Paul VI
Here’s something I’d like to share with you before I end this manifesto. I feel that this is a very important part of me. Of my past. And my now. And it’s something very valuable that I only realized in retrospect. Maybe it helps some of the younger readers. Or even some of the older folks.
I wasn’t always such a “thoughtful” person. I basically spent my entire life until the age of 25 or so consuming huge amounts of alcohol, partying in clubs every single weekend. I barely remember what happened those nights. I’m not necessarily proud of it and it still happens from time to time.
Until the age of 28 I barely ever read any books. I maybe read a total of 10 books up to that point. I didn’t read any of the classics. My general knowledge was and still is frighteningly limited. I only know the things I care about. I don’t know if I missed out on any important stuff. Maybe I did. Maybe I didn’t.
Did all of this make me smarter or did it help me to land a great job? Not necessarily. Did I enjoy it? You bet. And to me that’s what youth and life is all about. At least in rich countries. It really is about finding yourself. It’s about experimenting. About experiencing many different things. It’s about traveling. About broadening your horizon. And yes, I am convinced that going out, drinking and living your life without knowing what to do next, sort of broadens your horizon. Only by doing things and experimenting will you know how important (or as a matter of fact how unimportant) all of these things are. And it’s not about drinking alcohol. Alcohol is bad for you even though it can be fun from time to time. What it’s really about is making mistakes. It’s about failing and doing stupid things. But it’s also about change. I guess it’s never too late for change. To change yourself. To change your life. I’m probably one of the best examples.
And here’s another thing I strongly believe in. If you’ve never done all of these (maybe stupid) things, you might live a life full of regrets. At one point you’ll want to experience all of the things you feel like you missed out on. That’s what they call midlife crisis. Or maybe you won’t. I don’t know you. Doing stupid things, making mistakes, working a job you don’t like, wasting money on stupid things, these are all things that will prepare you for what’s to come next. They will prepare you for life. Or they won’t. At least you’ve done all of this and you know for sure where all of this gets you in life. Most of us learn through experience. By burning our fingers on the hot plate. And not by reading books. Even though books are a great add-on to experiencing things. Books help us to see things more clearly. To put the things we experienced into perspective. And if the only thing doing all of this stuff teaches us is that our bodies now take almost two days to recover after a heavy night of drinking (once you’re past the age of 25) that’s already quite a valuable lesson. Because you might stop doing it all along. You stop doing the stupid stuff. And you focus on what really matters. You can focus on creating your story. The story that might change people’s lives.
If there’s one thing I’ve learned having done all of these things I would have to say that I now know for sure that I won’t be missing out on anything. I’ve done it already. And once I get a bit older, I don’t have to ask myself the “what if” question over and over again. And that’s quite a soothing feeling. Now I can focus on the things that really matter. That are really important in life, to me. Like having an impact, changing the world, inspiring other people to do the same and so on.
The reason why I’m writing all of this is because I see and meet more and more young people (and some older folks) that seem to worry about how to live a perfect life. A life they read about on every freaking website. A life they see on every freaking TV channel. A super successful life. A motivational life. An inspiring life. And that seems to put a hell lot of pressure on young folks (including myself). It seems a lot of people in their twenties are struggling with it. As a matter of fact, one of the most asked questions on Quora is about how to not waste your life in your twenties. It comes in all shapes and colors. All of these questions circle around the fear of the future and potentially wasting your life. Here are a few of them I read and answered recently. Some of the answers have 100k+ views.
- What could a 20-year-old do to potentially improve their quality of life further down the line?
- At age 25, would you pursue a good paying corporate job that makes you unhappy or a hobby that makes you happy but has no guarantee to pay the bills?
- What are the most difficult and useful things people have to learn in their 20s?
And many more questions in a similar fashion. Just the other day a 17 year old kid sent me an email about mentorship. About being different and how to not waste your life. Honestly speaking, I have no clue. When I was 17 years old I didn’t even know what a mentor was. All I did back then was trying to make sure that my haircut looked good and that girls liked me. And that we had enough booze at my friend’s place. Maybe I did some more. But that’s the only stuff I remember.
Sure, all of this might only apply to developed countries. I have no clue how all of this might look like in developing countries. Nonetheless, I had to think about the message that guy sent me for quite a while. And I asked myself why so many kids these days are afraid of wasting their lives. Why they think so much about happiness, instead of just living a life and figuring it out by doing all sorts of different things. By simply living a life, experiencing things instead of constantly worrying about life. Why the hell do so many of us feel the pressure of living a perfect life? Why do they even worry about so many things?
I guess it’s because you see and hear so many stories about success. About successful people. About getting rich. About changing the world. About having an impact. And you know what. This is all BS. It leaves out a very important part. It leaves out the part where they should tell you that all you see, read and hear about is someone else’s life. And not yours. And the only reason why these people were successful in the first place is because they lived their own life. They found their own way.
I strongly believe that we all have a story hidden deep down inside of us that’s waiting to unfold in front of everybody. In front of the entire world. A story that might change people’s lives. And the way to unfold it is not by trying to copy someone else. It’s by finding your own path. It’s by living your own life. By figuring yourself out first. Some of us will have to go through a period of doing many stupid things, of making many mistakes (like I did) until our story unfolds in front of everybody. And then we will change people’s lives. Or we won’t. I don’t know. Some of us will struggle for quite some time, others might get it right the very first time. Some might never get it right. And you know what? That’s totally OK.
I really feel that all of these stories, blogs, books, videos and all this other BS only confuses us. That it unconsciously manipulates us. That it confuses and manipulates us into living someone else’s life. Into changing our story. We see people living the life and all of a sudden it feels like our life sucks. This freaks us out (including myself), makes us upset about our own lives and makes us feel like a failure. Then we fall into a deep hole, do less and less and we stop focusing on the things that really matter. We lose sight of our gift. Of our passion. And we get lost in a web of sameness.
And you know what I told this 17 year old fella? I told him that he should read more books. That books are the best mentors. But you know what? That’s all BS for a 17 year old. That’ doesn’t help a 17 year old kid. It might help someone in their late twenties or thirties or forties or maybe even fifties. But it clearly doesn’t help a 17 year old. I thought about it once again. And here’s the only thing that really helps a 17 year old kid (and indeed also older folks). Here’s the one thing I should have told him back then. The one thing I will tell you right now:
Fuck all of this YouTube and TEDx shit. Get drunk. Pass out. Go crazy. Break people’s hearts. Get your heart broken. Make mistakes. Fail. Give up. Get back up. Learn. Improve. Never stop. Live your life to the fullest. That’s the only way to really figure yourself, your life, this world and everybody else out. That’s the art of being remarkable, of how to get unstuck, unfucked and unleash your potential…
Originally published at yanngirard.typepad.com.