4 Lessons I Learned from Art Of Learning Josh Waitzkin’s ” The Art Of Learning” {Book Review}

What is The Art Of Learning about?

Josh Waitzkin chronicles in “The Art Of Learning” how he became an internationally known chess master and martial arts world champion. You might have heard of Josh, he is the subject for the Hollywood movie “Searching for Bobby Fischer”.

In his book, “The Art of Learning”,  Josh Waitzkin walks us through his approach to learning and how he managed to become world-class in multiple disciplines.

The books start in 2004 in Tapei, Taiwan where the Tai Chi Chuan Push Hands World Championships was fought. In the video below you can see the entire fight between Josh Waitzkin and the Taiwanese champion “buffalo”.

Before I butcher this moment completely, here are Josh Waitzkins own thoughts to describe this key moment in his life.

Forty seconds before round two, and I’m lying on my back trying to breathe.
Pain all through me. Deep breath. Let it go. I won’t be able to lift my shoulder tomorrow, it won’t heal for over a year, but now it pulses, alive, and I feel the air vibrating around me, the stadium shaking with chants, in Mandarin, not for me.
My teammates are kneeling above me, looking worried. They rub my arms, my shoulders, my legs. The bell rings. I hear my dad’s voice in the stands, ‘C’mon Josh!’ Gotta get up. I watch my opponent run to the center of the ring. He screams, pounds his chest. The fans explode. They call him Buffalo. Bigger than me, stronger, quick as a cat. But I can take him — if I make it to the middle of the ring without falling over. I have to dig deep, bring it up from somewhere right now. Our wrists touch, the bell rings, and he hits me like a Mack truck.
Who could have guessed it would come to this? Just a few years earlier I had been competing around the world in elite chess tournaments. Since I was eight years old, I had consistently been the highest rated player for my age in the United States, and my life was dominated by competitions and training regimens designed to bring me into peak form for the next national or world championship. I had spent the years between ages fifteen and eighteen in the maelstrom of American media following the release of the film Searching for Bobby Fischer, which was based on my dad’s book about my early chess life. I was known as America’s great young chess player and was told that it was my destiny to follow in the footsteps of immortals like Bobby Fischer and Garry Kasparov, to be world champion.
Josh Waitzkin The Art Of Learning

The Art of learning is not one of your typical how I did it books, it’s a philosophical guide to inner optimal performance. So lets start! Who is this Josh Waitzkin…

Who is Josh Waitzkin

Josh Waitzkin definitely knows the road to success.
When Josh was 6 years old he started to play “blitz Chess” against street hustlers in the infamous Washington Square Park. He watched and absorbed, and in no time he became the king of the hustlers himself.
Josh proceeded to make his name in the chess world. He became the only person to win the National primary, Elementary, Junio High School, Senior High School, U.S Cadet, and U.S Junior Closed chess championship before he even turned 16. (2)
There is a famous scene where Josh Waitzkin is playing 20-50 Chessboards at the same time against other people where he walked from table to table and beat them all.
Josh Waitzkin was, in consequence, called a “chess prodigy”.But where he excels, in my opinion, is his systematic approach to learning.
Once he left the Chess world behind, he won multiple national Championships in Tai Chi Chuan and two World Championships. After that, he became a black belt under Marcelo Garcia who is the Michael Jordan of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.

4 Lessons I Learned from Art Of Learning

Stretch to Grow

I was particularly interested in Josh Waitzkin because he is not shying away from failures and loses or even crisis. Actually, with this guy, it is the opposite, he craves failure.

When Josh was 6 years old he started to play chess against adult hustlers who were just crushing him in the central park. Through those first loses he learned where his weaknesses were and this made him better. Other young talents in various disciplines often only compete against players of their same age in order to not demotivate them. Josh had to come to terms with losing very early.

Growing up as an aspiring basketball player I can relate to this principle. From a very early age, I competed against my big brother, who was a not only a professional basketball player but also a giant( 2.06cm). So my entire upbringing I played against him and his buddies and constantly got my ass kicked. Coming to terms with losing very early as well.

My brother always used to tell me that when I am the best player on a team, that I am on the wrong team.

And I believe that this is very true.

I believe that we grow through adaption. Our brain and our muscles can only grow if we face stress, otherwise, there is no need to grow. So if you are reading this, I encourage you to go out and fail and compete way above your comfort zone.

Even as an adult we should try to live according to this principle of living outside of our comfort zone. Most of my friends are far more successful than me and they motivate me to grow and to keep up with them.

Another benefit of competing outside of your comfort zone is that constantly getting your ass kicked is a good teacher to stay humble. You realize that you have much to learn and that you do not have to take yourself to serious.

I still remember that when I was feeling myself a bit too much on the basketball court that my brother would challenge me to a one on one game, kicking my ass every time and dunking all over me. This kept me hungry and I would continue to work hard on my game.

I believe that humans have an extraordinary potential for adaptation. And furthermore that creating a social environment of people who force you to stretch is the only way to thrive.

I encourage you to evaluate your social context. Are you the big fish in a small pott? Or do you have friends who inspire you to become better and to grow?

After all, learning and growing is fun and a necessity for happiness.

Exercise:

Write down the 10 friends you associate most withNow evaluate them on a scale of 1-10. 10 they are making your life better and encourage you to become a better version of yourself. A 1 would be that this particular person is the bane of your existence and is holding you back or is making your life much more miserable. 

Key Insight: This exercise is not meant for you to exclude anybody out of your life, it aims at raising awareness for your social context. One of my favorite quotes from Sigmund Freud is that before you diagnose yourself with depression, make sure to check if you are not surrounded by a bunch of assholes. 

Humans are creatures of habit, and social imitation is one of the most powerful psychological drivers. 

Thrive in Chaos

Josh Waitzkin emphasizes multiple times that a big part of his philosophy of learning is to thrive in Chaos.

In chess, Josh favored chaos on the board. Normal Chess players favored, clean, memorized patterns. Josh uses confusion and playing in the unorganized game to his advantage because he loved to play when the conditions are not perfect. This allowed him to dictate the tone of the battle and thrive in an atmosphere where other players where uncomfortable.

I think this is true for life also.

We don’t just want to thrive when all of our favored conditions are met. When we feel good, when we have all of our preferred resources around us, when we are in the right flow it is really easy to function. 

Josh teaches to thrive also when conditions are not ideal, but the contrary; chaotic.

A perfect example is a meditation. People who learn meditation in perfect conditions, nobody is around, its quiet and it is the perfect time of the day.

Ultimately, however, we don’t only want to meditate when everything is just right when we are happy anyway. We want to be able to execute when the shit hits the fan when we are in a storm. This is when we need it the most.

Everybody can be happy if the sun is shining, all bills are paid, everybody is healthy and we are in an ideal situation.

We do not want to be able to only meditate in a flower garden, but also in situations that are not ideal, that are even stressful.

Again basketball has been a great teacher here.

I internalized that the real game starts when I am tired when my knees start hurting when my jumper is not falling and when our best player is fouled out, this is where basketball starts.

This is when it counts. When things are not going according to plan when you are breathing heavily, when you think you have nothing more to give, this is when it’s showtime, time to compete with the guy in front of you, to see who of you has the bigger heart.

“One thing I have learned as a competitor is that there is a clear distinction between what it takes to be decent, what it takes to be good, what it takes to be great and what it takes to be among the best…” Josh Waitzkin

A beautiful example that Josh Waitzkin uses is parenting and bad weather.

We are conditioned to teach our kids, that when it’s raining it is bad weather, and we don’t get out. Josh made it a habit with his son to celebrate every storm.

Every time there is a snow or rain storm Josh goes out with his son and dances. In order to teach his son, that success is not dependent on perfect outside conditions.

This to me has a deep application for life also. Everybody can be happy when our needs are met when everybody is healthy when we have enough money, and peace around us. Being happy in spite of things happening around us is a completely different challenge. And you can see that Josh Waitzkin is not only a master of learning but a master of living a life of harmony and mindfulness.

Cultivate the Soft Zone

In the Art of Learning Josh speaks a lot about Flow, which he calls the “Soft Zone”.

“Flow with whatever happens, integrating every ripple of life into a creative moment” (Waitzkin 54)

In the book, Josh describes the most intense chess game he ever played. During a national title match of his, an earthquake shook the event halls. (3) Each competitor was lost and broke down by this external stress of fear and uncertainty.

Josh, who loved chaos, thrived in this situation, and it helped him to reach a higher level of consciousness. A mental state in which he is capable of seeing things differently, and integrating the subconscious into the conscious. A phenomenon that basketball player describes as “being in the zone”.

The zone or the flow is almost a mystical concept where your brain operates on a different level, you see things different, things slow down for you.

Josh Waitzkin who coached many world-class performers says that we can create a gateway to this state of mind by conditioning.

So we can actually make “entering the zone” a habit.

Click here to read my article on how to create any routine you want.

Exercise: Grab a piece of paper and brainstorm!. Let’s deconstruct what happens for YOU if you operate in “the zone”. 

  1. Write down a scene of your past where you were “in flow”. Do this for 2 minutes. No rules here, just write what you did before you entered “the zone” .
  2. What you do when you are in flow? Where are you? What do you listen to? What have you eaten prior? What time? Any rituals that you know that gets you in flow? What are you doing when nothing else seems to exist? Music? Food? Location? 
  3. What kills your flow? Brainstorm for 2 minutes what your an environment would look like where you would definitely not enter “the zone”. 

Although flow is not something that you can provoke 10 out of 10 times, you can manipulate the odds, and condition yourself to be more likely to slide into the zone.

Creating flow generating rituals is a necessity.

For me, for example, writing to while listening to a song on repeat raises my chances of coming into the flow.

The key is to recognize your own patterns. What did you eat before? What music did you listen to? Who was around? What location? Did you perform a particular routine that day?

If you can identify the conditions before performing the desired behavior, you can do the same things again, and raise your probability of provoking the same outcome again.

Easier, however, in my opinion, is that you start by isolating variables that are in way of you getting into flow.

Things that distract you, behaviors and people, circumstances that are the enemy to your mindfulness and inner harmony.

For me, this would be being hungover, having toxic people around, social media notifications, eating heavy junk food, are all enemies to my mindfulness.

Mitigating toxic influences is a topic for itself. But I think that life by itself can be distracting enough, so isolating the common enemies to our flow state is key in order to live a harmonious life.

 

Become an Incremental Learner

In The Art of Learning, Josh Waitzkin explains the difference between entity and incremental learners.

A concept that Carol Dweck explains perfectly in the favorite psychology book of Bill Gates “Mindset”.

Learners who have an entity approach have a fixed mindset. They think their skills, intelligence is fixed like an entity. It’s the opinion that your results are determined by your god given static talent.

Incremental learners on the other learners believe that with hard work, the right strategy and optimal resource management one can learn almost anything.

Incremental learners praise themselves not only for their outcome but for their effort and strategy.

An entity learner lives and dies with his result.

If he fails a test, it is because he is too stupid, not because he learned not enough, or because he used the wrong strategy.

This, of course, has terrible consequences for his/her self-esteem. If they fail to often, they say things like ” math is just not for me” or “I am just not good at languages”.

In reality, their brain is perfectly capable of learning those disciplines.

When you’re an incremental learner, you believe that even a total beginner can eventually become the master at almost any given discipline.

This principle is not only important for learning but also for happiness. Failure is unavoidable in my opinion. If you determine your entire identity over your production, then you are going to have a hard time.

If you are like me, and you fail often, this mental pattern can cause unhappiness, and sometimes even depression.

If you praise yourself not for your talent, but for your acquired abilities, your effort, your ability to put your heart and soul into things then you are much better off in my opinion. Effort is a variable that you can control.

With this mindset even when you fail, you don’t completely fail as a person.

 

What do I not like about the Art Of Learning?

For much of the book “The Art of Learning”,  Josh Waitzkin described his vision of the road to mastery.

It’s the idea is that you start with the fundamentals, get a solid foundation in the understanding of the principles and that you then expand and refine the repertoire.

You then fuse these fundamentals with your own style, or how he calls it your own funk.

His approach to learning seems to take a lot of time and is not aimed to be mediocre, but to really excel. Maybe even become the best in the world at your desired craft.

This pathway of learning takes years and years. It aims at becoming a master at your craft. To a lazy bastard like me, this sounds like a whole lot of work. I believe in shortcuts.

For a curious person like me, spending an entire lifetime on one skill is romantic, but it also radically limits the different skills a person can learn in a lifetime.

There is so much to learn on this incredible planet, and if you focus too much on mastery you may lose out on a platter of skills that you can achieve within short, or mediocre time.

Besides that, there is nothing to cut away from this gem. A special book, by a very special man. And Josh Waitzkin does a great job of portraying his journey of mastering both the chess world and the martial arts scene.

If you want to check out other great books, click here to see my book club.

As always, thank you for reading and go kick ass in life!

Sources

1 http://www.joshwaitzkin.com/

2.https://tim.blog/2014/03/20/the-art-of-learning-joshua-waitzkin/

3. https://www.quora.com/What-are-some-takeaways-from-Josh-Waitzkins-The-Art-of-Learning

 

Viktor Frankl’s Man’s Search for Meaning {Book Review}

I First heard about Viktor Frankl when I was listening to an Interview with Tony Robbins and Tim Ferris. Tony Robbins was asked about the 2 Books that had the most impact on his life.
One of them was Man’s search for Meaning. At the Time I was studying successful people.
And Tony Robbins definitely qualifies. For those of you who don’t know him; Tony Robbins is an American success coach, entrepreneur, philanthropist and best selling author who has a net worth of over 500 million dollars.

I believe that when we emulate the habits of high achievers we will eventually get similar results. And in my investigation of the successful one habit popped up over and over: They read a lot! 
You might say, no shit sherlock, everybody knows that?!
Well, I did not.
So I started a little self-experiment: How would my life change if I would start to read a 1000books recommended by people who are kicking ass globally.
So I made it my mission to find out what these books were and read as much of them as possible. Thus the 1000 Book challenge was born.  In my book club, you find my latest favorite books that helped me to upgrade my life. Click here to check it out.
Viktor Frankl’s Man`s Search for Meaning is to this day the psychology book that I have recommended most often.
I don’t say this about many books, but this one has truly changed my life.
Being a lifelong student of human behavior I was particularly interested in Viktor Frankl’s Man`s Search for Meaning because I was looking for an answer to the question :

What is the difference between people who overcome hardship, suffering, problems and those who are not?

Viktor Frankl’s Man`s Search for Meaning gives you the answer to this question. So let’s dig into this! But first, let’s see who is the author of Man`s Search for Meaning.
…Who is Viktor Frankl

Who is Viktor Frankl? (1)

Viktor Frankl lived from 1905 to 1997, and he was a psychiatrist and Holocaust survivor.
He is the founder of Logo-therapy and wrote multiple best sellers. His mother, father, and sister all perished in the gas chambers of Nazi concentration camps. His book Man `s search for meaning“ is one of the most important and famous pieces of literacy ever written.
Viktor Frankl received his MD and Ph.D. degree from the University of Vienna where he studied psychiatry and neurology, on the areas of suicide and depression.
After treating thousands of people Frankl became the head of the neurological department at the Rothschild Hospital.
In 1942 during the Nazi Regime Frankl and his parents and his entire family were arrested and sent to the Theresienstadt concentration camp.
His father died there within six months. Over the course of three years, Frankl and the rest of his family were moved to Auschwitz. His brother died there and his mother was murdered.
In the camps, Frankl studied how humans behave in the face of extreme hardships and he helped other inmates who faced severe depression by encouraging them to reflect on positive memories, scenes and thoughts of their loved ones or something that gave them a compelling vision of their future. Frankl thought that during extreme hardships people can use meaning and spirituality to survive even inhuman circumstances.

What is Viktor Frankl’s Mans Search for Meaning about?

The book starts with Frankl sitting inside a train to Auschwitz. A death train.
Passengers, all of Jewish origin, forcefully being deported to their imminent and unavoidable death. The deported are fully aware that they won’t come back from this trip. Just imagine the absurdity of it! Having a gun held to your head and being fully conscious that your next stop is going to be a place where you are either murdered in a gas chamber or worked to death as a slave.

How does a man cope with such odds? How does a man put sense into this amount of misery and horror?
How can one find meaning in difficult times?
Frankl was in a unique position, as a psychiatrist, he was a student of human behavior. And as gruesome as this situation was for him, he created a meaning for his suffering. His meaning was to observe the behavior of other concentration camp inmates. 
He wanted to research which humans were going to fall into despair and which humans found ways to survive under such horrible conditions.
Which humans were committing suicide and which were not?
Ask yourself this: Why are you not committing suicide right now? 
Frankl wanted to know what inmates were surviving the longest. And he wanted to write a book about it. That was his why. To share his finding with the entire world.
Frank’l argues that it is impossible to avoid suffering. But we can choose how to cope with it.
Frankl believed that even in the midst of the most horrific, atrocious, dehumanizing conditions life had meaning and that suffering can have a purpose.
He observed that those concentration camp inmates who had a meaning, a purpose were less likely to fall into despair and depression. Less likely to commit suicide.

An abnormal reaction to an abnormal situation is normal behavior — Viktor Frankl

He believes that it is up us to put meaning into our suffering. He thinks that it is possible and necessary for us to put a sense into our misery.
And that it is necessary to form a new purpose out of it.
His Theory is called logotherapy; which comes from the Greek word „Logos“ which means, meaning.
Frankl believed that the sense of life is that we discover what is personally meaningful to us. So take a sec of my article and really dwell into what gives you meaning, why are you here, what brings you joy, what is important to you?

What did he observe in his time in Auschwitz?

  1. To his surprise, he found out that those who survived longest in concentration camps were not the physically strongest, but those who kept a sense of control over their environment.
  2. He found that the inmates who were surviving the longest all had a why. The why can be your family waiting in America, or your fiancé for example. For example, Victors Why was the love for his wife. The thought of being united again with his beloved helped him to endure the hardships in the camp, even if they were unrealistic and unfounded. Because after all his chances of surviving were slim to none. He also had the dream of writing his book. He visualized himself with his published book in New York. Giving lectures to hundreds of students. He had a dream. He linked a why to his pain and suffering. And it made the hardships bearable for him.

3. He noticed that prisoners who lost their why quickly lost their life as a result.
He also noticed that prisoners who had a why were able to endure atrocities and hardships that most of us cannot even imagine. Inmates had to work for 20 hours a day, mining and laying railroads and doing heavy labor. Most only had one small piece of bread to eat the entire day. The moment you looked weak, they were killing you because they did not saw any use for you anymore. If people with a why can thrive under these conditions, imagine how you could blossom when you have nothing holding you back, but yourself. And no matter what your hardships have been, just the fact that you can read this article right now means that you belong to the most privileged 5% people on this planet.
4. You can get used to anything
This was one of the most inspirational takeaways for me. Our Body is way, way tougher than we think.
Frankl reports about the absurd conditions in the camps. How he and other inmates were stripped naked shaved completely. Had all their passports and belongings burned. For Frankl his lifes work ( the papers of his logotherapy books) were burned as well. 
Jews ahd heir names were taken from them in the camps. They were given numbers and the numbers were tattooed on their skin. Treated like animals. If you looked weak, fragile whatsoever you were sent straight to the gas chamber where they would murder you.

The medical men among us learned first of all: “Textbooks tell lies!” Somewhere it is said that man cannot exist without sleep for more than a stated number of hours. Quite wrong! I had been convinced that there were certain things I just could not do: I could not sleep without this or I could not live with that or the other. The first night in Auschwitz we slept in beds which were constructed in tiers. On each tier (measuring about six-and-a-half to eight feet) slept nine men, directly on the boards. Two blankets were shared by every nine men“

4 Important Lessons I learned from Viktor Frankls Man`s Search for Meaning

1) Existential Vacuum

Viktor Frankl’s answers one of the questions that I had for a long time in his book Man`s Search for Meaning: How come that with rising resources people seem to live more and more in psychological detrimental states?

The existential vacuum is a widespread phenomenon of the twentieth century. This is understandable; it may be due to a twofold loss which man has had to undergo since he became a truly human being. At the beginning of human history, man lost some of the basic animal instincts in which an animal’s behavior is embedded and by which it is secured. Such security, like paradise, is closed to man forever; man has to make choices. In addition to this, however, man has suffered another loss in his more recent development inasmuch as the traditions which buttressed his behavior are now rapidly diminishing. No instinct tells him what he has to do, and no tradition tells him what he ought to do; sometimes he does not even know what he wishes to do. Instead, he either wishes to do what other people do (conformism) or he does what other people tell him to do (totalitarianism).”
Viktor Frankl
Mans Search for Meaning.

Frankl believes that due to modern civilization we have been neglecting some of our most basic, primal needs and live in insecurity and purposelessness in consequence. Many years after Viktor Frankls death this still seems to be the case.
One of the main causes of depression and psychological pain, in my opinion, is the disconnection of humans from their true needs. We seem to be living in a world that is unfit to satisfy our true desires.
In history, it was never so normal for humans to live a life in isolated from our tribe, from nature, from meaningful work.
The consequence is that we have millions and millions of people suffering from loneliness, anxiety, and depression. It reminds me of what happens to wild animals after you put them in little cages; they die.
A tiger who can not hunt anymore, reproduce and wander through the jungle and eat the food he is supposed to eat will eventually pine away.
I call this the Panda Problem. Taking pandas and other animals out of their natural habit, and away from their other specimen equals the burglary of their very purpose and meaning. This is one of the reasons why they do horrible in captivity and why they don’t reproduce in zoos good.
It’s a classical depression. In order to hack this social phenomenon, we must reconnect to nature, to our tribe and radically redesign the way we live.
Working 9-5 in small office boxes doing a job that we hate, detached from our natural environment will result in a cultural depression.
This book has encouraged me more and more to live as a digital nomad. Connecting modern technology with my nomadic nature and travel the world and find and search for the lifestyle that I feel most happy.

2) Logotherapy

“considers man as beeing whose main concern of fulfilling a meaning and in actualizin values, rather than in the mere gratification and satisfaction of drives and instincts.” Viktor Frankl. Mans search for mearning

Like everybody, I asked myself often: What is the purpose of life?
I was particularly interested in this question because for myself for a long time when I was not happy. Nothing had meaning. Meaningless is a sure ingredient of depression and psychological suffering in my opinion.
If nothing makes sense, why even try right?
So what drives humans?
One of my favorite psychologist and perverts Siggi Freud believed that humans are driven by the pursuit of pleasure. Another Psychologist during that era, Alfred Adler believed that we are being driven by our hunger for power.
Frankl thought a litterbit different about this.
According to Frankl, the primal motivational factor in humans is the pursuit of meaning.
Only when people fail to pursue meaning they fall for the darker drivers of behavior like pleasure and power.

Logotherapy is based on different assumptions about the psychology of a human being. (2)

  1. Life has meaning under all circumstances, even the most miserable ones.
  2. Our main motivation for living is our will to find meaning in life.
  3. We have the freedom to find meaning in what we do, what we experience, or at least in the stance, we take when we face with a situation of unchangeable suffering.

According to Viktor Frankl, there are three different ways to experience meaning.

  1. Creating a work or doing a deed.
  2. Experiencing something or encountering someone
  3. By the attitude we take toward unavoidable suffering

Viktor Frankl in his psychotherapeutic counseling often asked his patients “What stops you from committing suicide?
Dissecting the meaning of the patient.
I personally love this approach. Because often people think they have nothing to live for.
We all have things to accomplish, books to write, journeys to undertake and families to love or to build. Sometimes it seems that our meaning and purpose in life is just not present in our perception of our reality anymore.
One of the main tasks of my blog is to change the perception of a reader, showing them a different perspective, in order to allow them to see things they should have seen a long time ago.
Auschwitz Case Study
“Once, an elderly general practitioner consulted me because of his severe depression. He could not overcome the loss of his wife who had died two years before and whom he had loved above all else. Now how could I help him? What should I tell him? I refrained from telling him anything, but instead confronted him with a question, “What would have happened, Doctor, if you had died first, and your wife would have had to survive without you?:” “Oh,” he said, “for her, this would have been terrible; how she would have suffered!” Whereupon I replied, “You see, Doctor, such a suffering has been spared her, and it is you who have spared her this suffering; but now, you have to pay for it by surviving and mourning her.” He said no word but shook my hand and calmly left the office.[1]:178–179 (2)
Showing people in extreme horrific situations that there are still things to look forward to, that there are still things they can control is one of the most powerful lessons I ever learned from a psychological book.

3) Stimulus-Response Gap

Frankl argues in Mans search for Meaning that there is a gap between trigger and response. Meaning that you are in charge of your behavior and with it, we decide how we react, even in face of most dire circumstances.
This is interesting to me, because for a long time I thought our behavior is a direct product of our environment, and that we can do little about it.
Frankl believes in free will and in our ability to implant meaning in even the most horrific, unbearable situations.

Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom. Viktor Frankl

Frankl empowers personal decision and repairs peoples lost self-efficacy with this belief.
Even with most undesirable addictive behaviors there still is a necessity for the person to act. Meaning we are not powerless.
And although society may let it appear that people just get fat magically, I never saw a person eat a big mac by accident. So we still have to take some responsibility for our behaviors.

4) Gaping Abyss

This is one of the most interesting concepts of Viktor Frankl is the gaping abyss in my opinion.
Viktor Frankl believes that depression occurs at the 3 levels.

  1. psychological
  2. physiological
  3. spiritual

One of the drivers of depressions seems to be the discrepancy gap of undertaking tasks beyond our abilities.
If there is to much tension between what a person actually is, in relation to what he in his opinion should be can result in depression.
If we set goals for ourselves that are unreachable we live in a constant state of failure, and this will result in a lowered believe in our own abilities in my opinion.

This contradicts the public opinion that one should shoot constantly for the stars. I think we must segment our goals and dreams and moonshot projects into achievable pieces.
Instead of having a dream where the reward is all the way on the other side of the rainbow we must celebrate each and every little step on our way to our vision.
Because of that, I ask myself segmenting questions.
After visualizing a dream or a goal I ask myself ” “hat 3 things can I do today in order to make this dream come true TODAY, THIS WEEK, THIS MONTH, THIS YEAR.
And I am happy over the tiniest steps forwards towards my dream, because growing is a sure antidote to despair and unhappiness.
We need to have atleast the feeling of being control, or the feeling that are moving towards something.
Otherwise we are lost.

5) Despair is suffering without meaning.

In an interview, Frankl was asked what he witnessed in the concentration camps. And one of the questions was if he spotted any patterns in inmates that were prone to not survive.
Frankl argues that people who have no meaning in their suffering are prone to fall into despair and even suicide.
In the concentration camps, the inmates faced unspeakable circumstances. And many inmates became depressed and killed themselves.
In war, this is a common, logical phenomenon. Suicide is a self-protective mechanism where one has lost all faith that things will get better in the future. In Germany when the Russians were invading Germany, after Nazi Germany committed thousands of war crimes against Russia, entire villages committed suicide.
Frankl was in a unique situation as a therapist in a concentration camp, and his observations are of incredible value and give extreme deep insight into human psychology.
One thing he witnessed was that inmates who survived had the ability to see meaning in their suffering. Frankl even took his predicament and turned it into a personal triumph, a resource even.
In Auschwitz, Frankl counseled countless inmates who fell into despair in order to save their lives. Because if you are observable weak in a concentration camp you are of no use to the Nazis anymore, and you get gassed.
So in order to survive, they needed to shave daily, and pretend that they are strong and capable of doing hard work.

If one person was limping this was enough of a reason sometimes to gas them.
Frankl observed many people who gave up. The concentration inmates used to trade with cigarettes. If a person would start to smoke all their cigarettes themselves and not use them as a currency anymore for food or something else you could predict that that person has given up already.
When you face a dire situation, a problem, or a hardship ask yourself; What is great about this problem? What can I learn from this situation? How can I become stronger through this hardship? Will I be able one day to help somebody else who is going through this right now with my experience?
I took this principle into the extreme. Do you know the statement that everybody who studies psychology has some problems himself?
Well, for me this was quite true. And being the crazy fucker that I am, I failed more often than others and I experienced a whole lot of not awesome.
Struggling with depression was for a long time a predicament. I mean being in pain and unhappy does not quite seem like a blessing from the sky. But when you study psychology you basically are living with a case studies 24/7. Yourself.  So for me learning about behavioural psychology and clinical psychology became an intrinsic endeavor.
I realized that being unhappy as an aspiring psychologist is not a detriment but a resource. I thought that in order to cure others, I first needed to learn how to cure myself. Suddenly my mental predicament was not solely about me anymore. It became also about helping others. I thought that it was a selfish thing for me to stay depressed, because of all the people I was missing out on that I could help.
I created a why. A why that was bigger than myself.  My suffering became meaningful to me. Even more. When I saw people in my inner circle in pain, I spotted patterns quicker and quicker and I was able to help more and more. This resulted in me always being in learning mode and also always giving me a reason to frame suffering in my family as a learning and an opportunity to get better at my craft. Becoming a pain in the ass full-time extreme psychologist.
I believe that by transforming myself from a total fuck up into an epic version of myself, I will be able to duplicate this transformation in others. By showing them a blueprint that change is possible. If I can do it, so can you.
Viktor Frank’l believes that suffering is inevitable. And it is, but it is your decision whether you want to perish due to your trauma or if you want to put meaning into it and thrive because of it.
If you are in pain anyway, one might as well use it. Once you defined your why you are prepared to face any how.
So go all out and kick ass.
Thanks for reading.

Call to action

So what is yours why? What is your meaning in your life?? Do you see your suffering as a curse or as a chance to grow?

  1. Write down 10 reasons why you are not killing yourself. What is important to you? Who do you love? What is fun for you? What are things you want to see and achieve?
  2. Grab an empty cookie Jar
  3. Write down 3 Hardships of your past on a small piece of paper.
  4. Now write on the back of the paper what you did to overcome it.
  5. Write down three problems that taught you something or turned out later to be a skill or a resource
  6. If you would die today, what tasks, projects, dreams would die with you?
  7. Ask yourself every evening: What did I give today?

Want to read more? Sources!
(1) https://www.goodtherapy.org/famous-psychologists/viktor-frankl.html
(2) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Logotherapy

Am I An Addict? 6 Signs of addiction

How Do I Know If I Am An Addict?

I found the answer to this question in the most bizarre way possible. I was traveling alone in Colombia, and I attended the breakfast electro festival in Medellin. It was crazy. 6000 people, hot latinas, rollercoasters and cocaine everywhere. A weird spectacle. I already was a couple of weeks in Colombia and I drank and partied every opportunity I had. It was great. Or at least this was what I told myself at that time. I was in a bad shape. My body and spirit were weak and I began to walk on my last pair of legs. I was driven by the fear of missing out and the addiction of more. Sensation seeking at its best. I was running away from my responsibilities, my university, and my obligations. Or in short, I was running away from myself.
It finally came crashing down when I met 2 traveling hipsters who suggested that a great way to enjoy my last weekend in Medellin was to try extacsy for the first time. I thought this was a great Idea, try everything once right?!
Well, I had no Idea how to dose the drug, and since I am a big guy, the guys suggested that I took everything at once. For 30 minutes I did not feel any effect. Then suddenly, boom. Within the next minutes, I stumbled into the worst trip of my life. I still remember searching desperately with my eyes for my buddy. I could not talk properly anymore, but he saw the h.e.l.p letters written all over my face. I then managed to stutter out some words after which he finally brought me to the ambulance tent. I still remember trying to explain to the Colombian nurse in my broken Spanish that I had an overdose of exstacsy and that I need water.
She, of course, did not understand. It was a hilariously weird situation. She finally asked me “are you ok mister?”
I said that I am not.
That I need help.
In this very moment, I was done glamorizing my excesses around the world.
I was by no means ok, and I got myself in this mess, so maybe I should get help to get out of it.
I ran out of lies to tell myself and places to escape to.
I lied to myself that I was ok, that this was fun, that I had a blast, that I need no help and finally, I was honest again.
The epiphany that the entirety of planet earth is not enough to outrun yourself is a frightening feeling.
Addiction and substance abuse feel like a prison, that you take with you everywhere you go.
I was alone on the other side of the world in an ambulance tent, I was no longer able to live in denial.
I was giggling unable to cope with the situation, this must rock bottom, right?
It felt like a breakdown.
What it really was was a breakthrough.
I wrote this piece because there are many people dear to me who are in desperate need of such a breakthrough, a liberation from their own self-destructive character.
I choose to Write today’s article because people left and right from me are suffering from addiction, and are not even aware of it. Diagnosis is always the first step. You can’t fight an enemy that you can’t see.
Escaping from your pain creates more pain.
So how do you know if you are an addict?
This question is something only you can answer. There are many tests that give us a pretty good idea if our behavior is addictive.
I am not a big fan of these tests. It all comes to another question in my opinion; is your life controlled or dominated by a drug?
Is the drug that you are using getting in the way of you doing the things you truly want to do?
Most commonalities of all addictions include health problems, failure to meet your responsibilities at work or home, impaired control, social impairment, risky sexual behavior.
It so hard to wake up from an addictive mindset, because addicts create an entire world around themselves where their behavior is normal.
A sick world.
This is why it is so hard to spot addictive behavior at first because often you are not violating the code of conduct of your environment.
In general addicts and people who are using build a happiness trap around them.
A circle that gives them joy, coping, excitement, connection, validation but is driven by a drug that at the end will leave you in a worse state you entered in.
A circle of deterioration.
It does not matter if you snort it, drink it, inject it, smoke it or put it up your ass.
All drugs are painkillers.
So we need to stop asking why a person is weak and uses, and start to ask “what is it that this person is grieving about”?
Where is all the pain coming from, and can we help to ease this pain in a good way.

 

6 Signs you might be addicted(2)

Importance

The first sign that you might be addicted is how big space is that your addicted behavior or drug is taking in your life. When you meet your friends is alcohol always present?
If your drug of choice is taking in a big part of your life, that’s a red flag.
How much are you doing other things?

If you are using more and more time for your addictive behavior, it’s important to know that we only have 24 hours. This means that in order to sustain your addictive lifestyle you need to carve out time from other areas of your life. Maybe you don’t go to the gym as much as usual. You neglect your university or job or other parts of your social life

The unconscious decision to live a life of addiction is at the same a decision to not have time for positive and healthy activities. When was the last time that had a weekend where you came back healthier and happier and stronger? Time is limited, be very aware of what you do because it determines what you don’t do.

Disruption

The second sign that you might be addicted is that your drug or addictive behavior is getting in the way of your life, the things you truly want to do and your relationships. Maybe you want to get in shape, and you never get yourself to workout because you are to weakened from your weekly excess. Are things that used to be important for you like certain hobbies not as important anymore? Did you give up on some personal goals? Are you ignoring some of your responsibilities because of your addiction?
And the most important question: are you getting better or are you getting worse?
If you feel that your addiction is getting in the way of your motivation this is a huge red flag.
Who are the 5 people you spend the most time with? Are they all addictive personalities? If so this can give you valuable information in what kind of social system you are living in. Again, addicts create a system around themselves in which their behavior is normal. So you need to critically evaluate not only your behavior but the norm of your social environment. Sometimes it’s not you who is sick, but you live in an environment that is dominated by addiction and deterioration.
Ask yourself: If you don’t change anything in your life, where will you be in three years, socially, health-wise, career-wise? If you don’t stop your undesired behavior, what will it eventually cost you?

Prevalence

The third sign that you might be an addict is Prevalence.
Do you find yourself doing the addictive behavior more and longer than you originally planned? This is typical, I am going to to have only 2 beers and then you end up getting smashed till the night is over.
When you look at the 365 days of the year, how many days is your addictive behavior present in the form of you using, or you dealing and feeling with the consequences(hangover for example)?
Addiction is in the business of more. Your body adjusts to the drug and with time you need larger and larger doses in order to reach your preferred high. Is your addictive pattern changing other habits? Maybe it is hurting your eating habits, sleep rhythm your appearance maybe. Did you somebody tell you lately that you don’t look as fresh as usual? Is your bank account bleeding because of your residual excesses?
Are you making excuses for it? Maybe you say this is just the way I am? If your addictive pattern is becoming more impossible to hide its time to talk to someone.

Risky Behavior

Another sign that you may be an addict is you having risky behavior. Is your addictive behavior hurting you socially, financially, career-wise or even health wise? Maybe you are having unprotected sex when you are high, or you cheat on your loved one, or you get in trouble with the law because you drove him from the party drunk?
Those are all big red flags. If your current way of going through life is putting your health, your education, your dreams, your job, and your social connections at risk you may need to reevaluate if you have a problem or not.
What about your psychology? Anxiety, depression, memory problems, difficulties with concentration can all be side effects of an addictive pattern.
Nobody wants to be an addict. If you feel that you have something to hide, that you are ashamed of your behavior you should talk to someone.

Withdrawal symptoms

The 5th sign that you might be an addict is that you have withdrawal symptoms. Any time a drug is absent, the withdrawal symptoms kick in. This can be vary depending on the kind of addiction that you have, but if you have physical symptoms like restlessness, resentfulness or being highly irritatable or defensive can be because you are in withdrawal. If you often deal with withdrawal symptoms, like fatigue, headaches body is telling you that he is not ok.

Reverting

Do you often say to yourself that you are going to quit or reduce your addictive behavior, only to do the same the next weekend, maybe even more?
This is the classic symptom of ” I can stop any time if I want to, But right now is not the time for it “.
Have you ever tried to reduce the behavior that feel is addictive, only to see that your attempt was fruitless?

A big red flag is the feeling of not being in control. Kinda like a person who stops making New Year’s resolution because they are not going to follow through anyway.
This is a big red flag. It means that a behavior or a substance is controlling you. This can be you being slaves to your impulses, your pleasures, your anxieties, your fears, your preferences. You are beneath normal reason and reasonable judgment. It all comes down to the most honest question, do you believe from the bottom of your hearth that this behavior or substance is impacting the quality and health of your life negatively?
You only have one life, do you wish to live it like an addict?

Toxic environment

You are the sum of the 5 people you spend the most time with.  A reliable way, in my opinion, to check if you are having troubles with a substance or an addictive behavior is stop looking at yourself for a second and investigate your social environment. How normal is it to use in your circle? How many of your friends take drugs or have the same pattern you think you have?
Addiction is incredibly hard to spot because often it is not seen as abnormal behavior. In our culture(Germany) it is for example not abnormal to get out every weekend and get so shitfaced that you can’t remember half of your night. When we think of addiction we still think of the classical heroin addict, who lives eats and breathes in order to get his next shot
.
Alcohol was o fathered in that we don’t consider it dangerous or toxic anymore. It’s not a drug, its a drink. We drink alcohol in Germany when we celebrate a birthday, it’s a psychological reward, that we have conditioned to associate with something that’s good. New Years years, birthdays, soccer games, coming home from work, Christmas, alcohol is a celebratory drug at almost all occasions.
It’s normal that we in Germany when we have a soccer game that everybody gets a beer. Imagine a stadium full 40 000 people all doing a little bit of cocaine. The idea is weird, but this is actually what’s happening. A society that drugs itself daily.
I am not against drugs, I am against behavior that gets in the way of people doing what they really want to do.
Evaluate and deconstruct your social circle. Where do you meet usually? Is it at the bar? At the club? Or in the library or at the gym?
The reward of addiction is in most cases is immediate fun, reinforcement, connectedness, and happiness.
What happens if you go cold turkey right now. If you don’t do alcohol for 3 months? How will your friends react if you meet? Will you be the odd man out?
We are all players in a social system.
We need to be self-aware and expose the system that we live in for what it really is. This is the hard part about making steps towards sobriety for example. The realization that your entire circle is held together by a drug, that you are all part of the wheel of self destructivism. If this is the case, you need to escape, or create a balance in your circle by adding more and more healthy people to your world. So it becomes abnormal again if you intoxicate yourself regularly. This will be the hardest part because you need to let people behind who you love.

Here are a few red flags that the Disorder Manual 5 lists as criteria to potentially diagnose a Substance Use Disorder.

Criteria for Substance Use Disorders

Substance use disorders span a wide variety of problems arising from substance use and cover 11 different criteria. In order to be diagnosed with the disorder, you must display at least 2 of the following 11 symptoms within a year.(2)
  • Consuming more alcohol or other substance than originally planned
  • Worrying about stopping or consistently failed efforts to control one’s use
  • Spending a large amount of time using drugs/alcohol, or doing whatever is needed to obtain them
  • Use of the substance results in failure to “fulfill major role obligations” such as at home, work, or school.
  • “Craving” the substance (alcohol or drug)
  • Continuing the use of a substance despite health problems caused or worsened by it. This can be in the domain of mental health (psychological problems may include depressed mood, sleep disturbance, anxiety, or “blackouts”) or physical health.
  • Continuing the use of a substance despite its having negative effects on relationships with others (for example, using even though it leads to fights or despite people’s objecting to it).
  • Repeated use of the substance in a dangerous situation (for example, when having to operate heavy machinery or when driving a car)
  • Giving up or reducing activities in a person’s life because of the drug/alcohol use
  • Building up a tolerance to the alcohol or drug. Tolerance is defined by the DSM-5 as “either needing to use noticeably larger amounts over time to get the desired effect or noticing less of an effect over time after repeated use of the same amount.”
  • Experiencing withdrawal symptoms after stopping use. Withdrawal symptoms typically include, according to the DSM-5: “anxiety, irritability, fatigue, nausea/vomiting, hand tremor or seizure in the case of alcohol.”
These criteria are not meant to label you, I simply named them because they should give you food for thought so that you become better at spotting patterns and red flags in your behavior.
Diagnosis always comes first. Nobody can fight an enemy that they cant see.

Questions to ask yourself if you suggest that you might think you have an addiction(1)

  1. Do you feel a compulsion to consume drugs or alcohol to get through the day?
  2. Do you crave alcohol or drugs at a specific time every day?
  3. Have you ever sought medical attention because of your drug or alcohol use?
  4. Has anyone ever suggested you quit or cut back on drinking or taking drugs?
  5. Have you made promises to control drinking or using drugs and broken them?
  6. Have you tried multiple times to stop using without success?
  7. Has your performance at school, work or home been affected by your drug and alcohol consumption?
  8. Is your drinking or drug use jeopardizing your job or business?
  9. Has your drinking or drug use interfered or caused problems with personal relationships?
  10. Has drinking or drug use led to financial difficulties?
  11. Have you become less ambitious or productive since drinking or using drugs?
  12. Do you constantly think about the next time you can drink alcohol or take drugs?
  13. Have you suffered from memory loss after using drugs or alcohol?
  14. Are you able to drink or use more drugs now without feeling the repercussions, compared to when you first started?
  15. Do you experience withdrawal symptoms after a period of time in which you haven’t consumed drugs or alcohol?
  16. Do you go to extensive lengths to obtain drugs or alcohol?
  17. Do you remain intoxicated for several days at a time?
  18. Do you say or do things while intoxicated you later regret when sober?
  19. Is your drinking or drug use a means to escape worries or troubles?
  20. Do you drink or use drugs alone?
  21. Do you drink or use drugs because you are shy with other people?
  22. Do you drink or use drugs to build self-confidence?
  23. Are you experiencing sleeping problems due to drinking or drugs?
  24. Are you hanging out with old drinking or drug buddies you knew before rehab?
  25. Do you experience distress, anxiety, depression, restlessness or feelings of aggression when you don’t drink or use drugs?

If you have answered yes a couple of times, then it maybe should give you food for thought to talk to a friend and hear they honest opinion if they think you might are risking your health long term.

Case Study

David’s story
By the age of 40, most people would have said I led a happy and successful life. I was married with teenage children, had a well-paid professional job and was actively pursuing hobbies in my free time.
But behind the façade things were far from right.
My adolescent years had been unhappy ones, though I’d kept it all to myself – the loneliness, oversensitivity, bullying, low self-esteem and a desperate desire to be seen as successful by others.
As a student and later at work there were times when I found myself drinking too much and making a fool of myself, but I thought everyone did that sometimes. In my 20s and 30s, as the demands and responsibilities of adult life increased, the occasions when I drank too much became more regular, and when I’d been drinking I lost my inhibitions and my sexual behavior became increasingly promiscuous.

I didn’t want to hear that I should stop drinking

I realized that things were out of control and sought help through my GP and various counselors. But I didn’t want to hear what they told me – that the solution for me involved stopping drinking.  I couldn’t imagine my life without drink and the escape it gave me.  I wanted to believe that I could control my drinking and associated behavior, despite all the evidence that I couldn’t.
My wife and children suffered enormously, I missed work through sickness, I had periods of memory loss after drinking and I felt increasingly hopeless. Attempts to stop drinking provided brief periods of respite, but they always failed and the drinking, uncontrolled behavior and my sense of shame and despair spiraled out of control.

Turning to Priory for support

I found myself in the Priory after attempting suicide while under the influence of alcohol. I was diagnosed with alcohol addiction, sex and love addiction and unresolved childhood trauma. To start with I wasn’t convinced about the sex and love addiction and just thought I did some bad things after drinking too much. But I did accept that if I continued doing what I’d been doing it would cost me my life.
Initially, I found it confusing, wondering what I was supposed to say in the group therapy sessions and puzzled by some of the language, the rules, and procedures. But the mist soon cleared. I’d imagined the Priory as a place for the rich and famous, but what I found were people from all walks of life, whose lives – like mine – were being destroyed by the addiction of one kind or another.
For the first time, I found I was able, to be honest and open with my peers and the therapists about my addiction and its consequences. The programme introduced me to Alcoholics Anonymous and other 12 step programmes, where I met people leading happy and successful lives in recovery. I’d always dismissed AA but now I wondered what I could learn from the people I met.

My recovery journey

As well as gaining a better understanding of myself and my addiction, the Priory gave me a set of tools and strategies for sustaining my recovery in the outside world. At the heart of the Priory’s approach is the importance of addicts supporting each other in recovery. I found the weekly Aftercare sessions with other patents who’d been through the Addiction Treatment Programme immensely valuable. I supplemented these with one to one therapy with an addiction therapist recommended by the Priory.
I’ve been in recovery for over two years now and my outlook on life has changed completely. I’m at peace with myself and those around me in a way I never thought possible. Life has its ups and downs, but I take it as it comes without trying to escape from the world or myself by reaching for a drink. I no longer feel the need to drink and take pleasure in living each day for what it has to offer.

If I have one piece of advice for anyone struggling with substance or behavioural addiction it is to ask for help.
“I have absolutely no pleasure in the stimulants in which I sometimes so madly indulge. It has not been in the pursuit of pleasure that I have periled life and reputation and reason. It has been the desperate attempt to escape from torturing memories, from a sense of insupportable loneliness and a dread of some strange impending doom.”
Edgar Allan Poe

Negative Consequences from Addiction

Brain Chemistry

The human brain is the most complex organ in the human body. Although it may weigh less than 3 pounds, it somewhat mysteriously controls both your thoughts and the physiological processes that keep you alive. Drugs and alcohol change the way you feel by altering the chemicals that keep your brain working smoothly.
Let’s get into the science of things. When you first use drugs, your brain releases a chemical called dopamine that makes you feel euphoric and want more of the drug. After all, it’s only natural to want more of the thing that makes you feel good right?
Over time, your mind gets so used to the extra dopamine that you can’t function normally without it. Everything about you will begin to change, including your personality, memory, and bodily processes that you might currently take for granted.

Health Complications

Drug and alcohol use impacts nearly every part of your body from your heart to your bowels. Substance abuse can lead to abnormal heart rates and heart attacks, and injecting drugs can result in collapsed veins and infections in your heart valves.
Some drugs can also stop your bones from growing properly, while others result in severe muscle cramping and general weakness. Using drugs over a long period of time will also eventually damage your kidneys and your liver.

Infections

When you are under the influence of drugs or alcohol, you may forget to engage in safe sex practices. Having unprotected sex increases your chances of contracting a sexually transmitted disease. Sharing the needles used to inject certain drugs can give you diseases like hepatitis C, hepatitis B, and HIV. You can also spread common colds, the flu, and mono from sharing pipes and bongs.

Legal Consequences

Drug and alcohol abuse not only has negative effects on your health but can also have legal consequences that you’ll have to deal with for the rest of your life. Many employers require that you take a drug test before offering you a job—many of them even conduct random drug tests even after you become an employee. Refusing to give up drugs could end up making you unemployed, which comes with even more issues.
Driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol can lead to a suspended driver’s license, usually for 6 months to 2 years. You’ll also need to pay heavy fines and may even spend some time in jail.

Financial Problems

Drugs and alcohol are expensive, especially when you’re using a lot and constantly. Substance abuse also impacts your productivity and success at work and in school. The time spent searching for, using and recuperating from drugs can be better spent learning new skills to advance your career.
The legal issues tied to drug use will increase your bills as well. Your car and health insurance rates may increase and you will have to find a way to pay for arrest warrants, DUIs, and legal counsel.

Injuries and Death

If you use drugs and alcohol, you’re more likely to experience physical injury or be involved in car accidents. Even worse, you also have an increased risk of death through both suicide and homicide.
These drug-related deaths are on the rise, doubling since the early 1980s. Alcohol specifically results in 5.2 million accidental injuries and 1.8 million deaths each year. It’s estimated that 1 out of every 4 deaths is caused by drugs and alcohol, according to the World Health Organization.

Sources! Want to read more?

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/hope-relationships/201411/6-signs-youre-addicted-something
3. https://www.rightstep.com/resources/alcoholism-help/know-im-addict/
4. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/where-science-meets-the-steps/201210/why-relapse-isnt-sign-failure
5. https://www.smartrecovery.org/life-after-relapse-how-to-bounce-back-and-start-over/
6. https://www.priorygroup.com/blog/recovering-from-alcohol-addiction-a-case-study
7. https://drugabuse.com/drug-alcohol-effects/
8. National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2012). Drugs, Brains, and Behavior: The Science of Addiction.
9. National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2012). Medical Consequences of Drug Abuse.
10. New Jersey State Bar Association. (n. d.). Legal Consequences of Substance Abuse.
11. World Health Organization. (2007). Alcohol and Injury.

Call to Action

1. Ask 10 friends if they think you have an addictive pattern
2. Write down 5 things your addiction has cost you in the past
3 Take out a calendar, and mark every day you performed the addictive behavior, or where you had to deal with the consequence of the addictive behavior(hangover for example)
4. Make a list of all the friends who you have, how many of them are struggling with addiction?
5. Write down 10 benefits that you will gain if you will lose the addiction
6. Imagine you have a child, would you be ok with that child having the same life as you are having right now? Would you allow him/her to consume for example on the same level that you are consuming right now?
7. What will this behavior cost you in the next year/3 years/5years/20Years

Walden — Hendrik David Thoreau {Book Review}

When Tim Ferris packed his stuff to vagabond around the world, he took two books with him. The first one was Vagabonding by Rolf Potts, the second one was Walden by Hendrik DavidThoreau.
Tim Ferris was one of the guys who inspired me to found my own psychology podcast.
The 6$ that I spend on this gem, are easily in the discussion for best investment of my life. And I believe whole heartedly that this book has the potential to enrich if not change your life.
I started to read Walden when I was flying towards Portugal and I finished it while watching the sunset in a small village near guimares.
In Walden Thoreau writes about his experiment of living in the woods near Walden Pond, in Concord, Massachusets in solitude for two years. He lives there completely self-reliant, in the shack he build, as simple as possible, and supported by no one else but by himself.
The timing could have not been better for me to find this gem. At the time of my discovery of Walden, I had the biggest financial trouble of my recent memory, and I was on the summit of brokeback mountain, surrounded by a large storm of horsecrap.
The stoicism that is depicted in Hendrik David Thoreau’s Walden not only gave me a new perspective but made me realize that the things that matter to me most cannot be taken away from me, ever.
As long as I have the people I love, my orange backpack, my blog, and my dream I have everything that I need.
That I am free.

What is the Book Walden About?

In Walden, Thoreau writes about his experiment of living in the woods near Walden Pond, in Concord, Massachusets in solitude for two years. He lives there completely self-reliant, in the shack, he build himself, as simple as possible, and supported by no one else but by himself.
In total, he spent for his cabin just 28 Dollars. In order to sustain himself, Thoreau grows and sells vegetables, mostly beans. His day to day diet consists mainly of rye bread, salt pork, rice, beans, and potatoes.
Thoreau`s Idea was that in the midst of modern society and within day to day ordinary life can one lose his or her true identity.
Thoreau moving to walden is a radical experiment in order to see what remains at the core of the human soul if one eliminates variables such as possession, social connections, career and external validation.
Henry David Thoreau was motivated for this experiment by his Mentor and Role Model Ralph Waldo Emerson, and I would think that they belong to the school of transcendentalism, which assumes that there is a true self to discover.

Thoreau goes into great detail about his observations about the nature that surrounded him in the forest in Walden. The Book Walden is not only a book about self-discovery and stoicism but it is also about mindfulness, minimalism, gratitude and our spiritual connection to nature.
In Walden Thoreau shows his great love for numbers, and he goes into detail how much he spends in order to build his cabin in the woods and how much money he spent on salt from 1845 to 1847. To us, this may seem weird or trivial(2) but to Thoreau it was important. In his opinion modern society with its blind devotion to consumerism, technology and hedonism is enslaving the human soul with its dependencies and is ultimately robbing us of our most precious gift: our freedom.
According to him, we create our own prison.
He spends however not the entire time in his little cabin in the wood on working on his little farm that he build. Thoreau spent only as much time on labor and work as was necessary in order to sustain himself.
He went into the woods to think, to feel and to observe nature.
You can see that he had little to no respect for material things and possessions.
Thoreau was proud and fascinated by how little he spend, and how little he actually needed. He spend less money on building a hose and living there than he had to spend studying in Harvard.
Thoreau was a true free spirit, he even refuses to acknowledge the days of the week or month, he was only guided by the season that changed slowly in front of him.
After two years of living in the forrest, Thoreau left Walden. Thoreau announced that his project at the pond is over on September 6, 1847. He felt that humans live many lives and that his life living at the pond was finished. He then admonishes us to meet our lives, and live fully.

Who is Hendrik David Thoreau?

“Henry David Thoreau was a philosopher and writer best known for his attacks on American social institutions and his respect for nature and simple living. He was heavily influenced by the writer Ralph Waldo Emerson, who introduced Thoreau to the ideas of transcendentalism, a philosophy central to Thoreau’s thinking and writing. In addition to Civil Disobedience (1849), Thoreau is best known for his book Walden (1854), which documents his experiences living alone on Walden Pond in Massachusetts from 1845 to 1847. Throughout his life, Thoreau emphasized the importance of individuality and self-reliance. He practiced civil disobedience in his own life and spent a night in jail for his refusal to pay taxes in protest of the Mexican War. (Thoreau was opposed to the practice of slavery in some of the territories involved.) It is thought that this night in jail prompted Thoreau to write Civil Disobedience. Thoreau delivered the first draft of the treatise as an oration to the Concord Lyceum in 1848, and the text was published in 1849 under the title Resistance to Civil Government.”(1)

 

3 Lessons That I learned From Walden

The Importance of Self-Reliance

A clear theme in the book Walden is the importance of Self-Reliance. A huge influence for Hendrik David Thoreaueu was the writer Ralph Waldo Emerson, and in particular the essay Self-Reliance, is one of the finest pieces of literature ever written in my opinion. One could say that Hendrik David Thoreau’s experiment to live without money in the woods for 2 years was motivated by proving the ideals of Emerson that are depicted in the letter self-reliance of 1841.

“Man is his own star; and the soul that can
Render an honest and a perfect man,
Commands all light, all influence, all fate;
Nothing to him falls early or too late.
Our acts our angels are, or good or ill,
Our fatal shadows that walk by us still.”
Epilogue to Beaumont and Fletcher’s Honest Man’s Fortune

In Walden, Thoreau explains that a person needs financial independence more than the neediness that millions live by in our hedonistic societies that only aim at acquiring more material wealth.
Thoreau goes into great detail on how much money he spends in his experiment, he even mentioned that the amount of money he spent 1845-1847 on salt. To “normal” people this may be trivial, to Thoreau this meant control. Controlling his own finances and not be dependent on banks, jobs and other people is ultimately the ability to control one’s own fortune and life.
Thoreau’s experiment to live in the woods is not only an experiment to liberate himself from the strings of the capitalistic cravings that are mandatory to live in our society, but he also aims at cutting strings with his social life. He very rarely was visited by other people in his time by the woods.
And if he was visited by friends, they were most likely also poets or thinkers.
This was a deep lesson for me. Being Independent and self-reliant means to be in control. I believe psychologically three things among many others, are causing depression.
Perceived lack of control over one’s own life, financial scarcity, and our craving for external validation.
By eliminating the need for those three basic human needs, Thoreau gives us a uniquely different manual of how to deal with anxiety and depression in my opinion.
Our brain is an overreactive Son of a b*tch. Every time one of our bills is overdue, we fear social exclusion and starvation.
Thoreau goes to extreme length to become the boss of his own life, something we all should try to be. And it seems that the psychological benefit of feeling in charge is fundamental when it comes to preserving our sanity.
Walden has taught me that in order to battle my depression and anxiety I need to feel more in control. Limiting our dependencies is a liberation of the soul.
The second benefit of being more self-reliant is to stress less about things that are not in your control.
The identification and separation of matters that we can influence is key. There are many things in life that we can influence and change, and by all means am I an advocate of striving to become better and doing everything we can. But there is a lot of stuff that we can not change. From accidents to illness to losing a loved one.
By focusing on the things we can not change we dig our own graves and invest in our anxiety.
What we always can change however is the fact of how we deal with things that we can not change. Our attitude and emotion towards misfortune is in our control. Always.
Even if you are suffering you are in control of what coping mechanism you choose. Years back I interviewed  2 brothers. Their father died of severe alcoholism. One of them became an addict as well. I asked him why he thought  that he was so vulnerable to addiction, and he hinted that he had no other choice because his father lived this way. And that he inherited those bad habits.
The other brother was doing fairly well in life, and I asked him why he was doing so good. He gave me the same answer. He told me he was doing so good because we wanted to be the opposite of his father and learn from his mistakes and not bring the level of pain and suffering into the world.
We all need the feeling of control. If you feel overwhelmed in life, focus on the little things that are in your power.
Often we underestimate the power of the culmination of doing tiny things on a regular basis.

The Value of Stoicism

In Walden Thoreau dedicated an entire chapter to the idea of simplicity. Thoreau depicts the idea that humans in our capitalistic society have a tendency to be dissatisfied with one`s possession.
Something that is true for most of us. We are all in some way in the process of creating the means of getting more.
There are two ways according to Thoreau of dealing with this dissatisfaction. We either acquire more, or we reduce our desires.
Thoreau goes to extreme lengths of reducing his desires, by living alone in the woods.
From building his own shack to having a simplistic diet. To him, the devotion of acquiring luxurious extravagancies is not only unnecessary but a real liability and empidment.
It is crazy how these ideas are still relevant 150 years later.
We work our asses of to get a house that is to big for us, with money that we borrowed from the bank, drive a car that we don’t really need, work a job in order to buy stuff that we not only could easily live without but is actually hindering us of becoming happy and fulfilled.
Thoreau goes as far as discussing if humans need shelter at all because he believes our skin is enough of a tent.
This thinking deeply liberated me in times of financial struggle. That my worst case scenario is actually not that bad.
Stoics would go as far as to practice misfortune on a regular basis. By training our brain that the condition that we fear most is actually not that bad we liberate ourself from fear and anxiety.
Gary V, for example, visualizes his worst case scenario(the death of his loved ones) every morning. I know this is crazy. But he believes that this is the source of his level of gratitude.
Stoics don’t aim at devoting their life to acquiring more, but to become the best person they can become.
This is of extreme importance when it comes to how we see ourselves, and how we judge ourself and others.
What do you appreciate in yourself and in others? Who do you respect and why?
Do you respect people who are kicking ass in their career? Do you look up to people who are financially successful?
Or do you respect people who are doing good? Who is adding value? Who puts a smile daily on other peoples faces?
We live in the society where we only value performance, we worship people in power, and we do not pay attention to kindness, love, and happiness.
So I urge you to go into introspection. What do you value yourself for?
Often people have a value paradigm that ignores beautiful qualities.
If you only value people in power, people who are “successful” and you are not this person yet you are digging your own grave and create self hate and self doubt.
Do not forget to praise yourself for the things that really matter. Are you a good listener? Can you make other people smile? Are you a devoted person? Can you be happy for others? Are you patient with your parents? Are you there for your friends when they truly need you?
In my interviews with depressed people, they often speak about how much better the world would be without them, that they can not do anything, and that they have no skills.
By scaling down and praising yourself for stoic values, you not only gain happiness, but you gain clarity and truth. Because you are a beautiful person, you may have just not yet realized it because you use the wrong template to evaluate yourself correctly.

Everything is Ephermal

So if possession, achievement, social validation don’t matter, what does?
This very moment does. Now matters.
In my last article, take the road less traveled by, I talked about how overrated feelings are.
And that more often than not, we over-evaluate the importance of feelings. A the end of our emotions very often is nothing.
I had this insight while watching the endless panoramic view in Guimares, realizing that if everything is ephermal, there is no need to stress about the future or the past.
Depression, is often an obsession with the past. Anxiety on the other side is the fear  of worrying about everything sh*tty that might happen to us in the future.
This leaves no place for the importance of the now.
A great mentor here is Marcus Aurelius.  One of my favorite stoic thinkers.

“Run down the list of those who felt intense anger at something: the most famous, the most unfortunate, the most hated, the most whatever: Where is all that now? Smoke, dust, legend…or not even a legend. Think of all the examples. And how trivial the things we want so passionately are.”Marcus Aurelius.

While I read Walden in Portugal I felt liberated. After receiving some major bad news, I was super anxious and felt like dog sh*t.
It made me think. How many times in my life did my bitchy emotions tell me that the world was going to end, that I will not make it, that everybody will hate me, that I have no future?
How often did the world actually end?
Yup, not one time.
We fail exams and we think we just lost our one and only shot at success. We fight through a breakup and we believe no one ever will love us again. We see a dream not work out and we feel like we just lost our one and only shot at happiness.
Yet still, lifes goes on. Whether we like it or not.
The seasons in Walden, that Thoreau describes so playfully showed me that life is going to go on.
Always.
And as I realized in Portugal, we matter a lot less then we are willing to admit.
This is a good thing. Nihilism can be liberating. If nothing matters and everything is trivial, why not do what the f*ck makes you happy and stress less about things.
Whether you die, or the president of the united states, the same thing is coming for both of you. So why stress out so much.
Take it easy, live life fully and be open for the endless beauty that this world has to offer.
Thoreau believed that a human lives many lifes.
As he left the forest that he lived in for two years, we felt that the life he had to live near the pond of this forest was over.
The same goes for you and for me. What life are you living right now that is coming to an end?
What life do you choose to live next?
You decide.

Who recommended it?

Tim Ferris.

What did I not Like?

His writing style is contrary to his simplistic philosophy. If you are not a native English speaker, this gem is going to be really hard for you to understand.
I had my fair share of trouble with understanding Thoreau`s Walden.
His sentences are very long, and complicated in times. Besides that, I have nothing to argue about. T

Call To Action

1) What is your biggest fear? And Why?
2) What is your worst case Scenario for life? And Why?
3) What would your life look like if you would not devote yourself to seeking external validation and materialistic possessions?
4) How much money do you spend on food in a month?
5) What things do you buy that are not necessary for you to survive or be happy?

Want to read more? Sources!

  1. http://www.sparknotes.com/author/henry-david-thoreau/
  2. http://transcendentalism-legacy.tamu.edu/authors/emerson/essays/selfreliance.html

Alone With Everybody — Mecklenburgische Seenplatte{Travel Journal Day 5/5}

The car is moving at 50 miles per hour. The window is open. My hand glides through the air. There rings on my fingers. My friend has an old iPod that accompanied him all over the world. It is his gem. We listen to Noah and the whale.
It is 36 degrees outside. The car is overheating. We don’t want to blow the engine, so we drive slow. Much to the disgust of everybody else on the high way. We don’t care.
We are driving towards home. There is no rush, it is not going anywhere. My friend is reluctant to go back. He just became an engineer, and he needs to start working soon. He is not happy about that.
We talk about what traveling means for us. He tells me tales about tramping through South America. We come to a mutual consensus that planning is overrated. Adventure is found in the unknown.
He tells me a story. He started traveling in Chile after finishing his university there. He decided that he wanted to go to a city in southern Chile. He was picked up by a stunning woman headed in the same direction. Instead of going to his original targeted city, he went with Valentina. That was her name. To this day the most intense romantic and painful experience of his life.
Journeys where we are guided by randomness, really make the best stories. We are in a weird emotional state of nostalgia. Longing for something that is both behind and in front of us.
The topic shifts to regret. How stupid decisions sometimes show us most what we really want. What we don’t want.
Mistakes for me often equal deep personal discoveries. I learn through failure. And oh boy, do fail a lot.
I think I had a crisis on every continent so far. Bribing the police in Africa. Being chased by yakuza in Thailand. Driving straight into Australia’s biggest hurricane ever. Overdosing in Columbia. Losing all my credit cards in Cambodia. I could go on for hours.
Every time I thought I messed up to a point of no return. Life continued anyway. I believe that real understanding comes through failure. Something that I never shied away from. And to this point, it has been everything but boring.
Yesterday night, was our last night. Because of the thunderstorm, there were no clouds all day. The chances of experiencing another starry night were high. What I did not expect was a profound spiritual experience.
After another day of canoeing, we exhaustingly arrived at our final camping spot. A hill in a forest where we could oversee the calm lake. The floor is covered with acorns. Since I have no sleeping pad, I know I am in for a rough night.
I need to write. So I get away. I walk away from my friends. I get the canoe and drive to the middle of the lake. Alone. I can let my guard down.
Nobody is here. I stop paddling. The lake becomes a mirror. I start writing.
I think about my journey. I feel Emotions of strange wistfulness about upcoming events. The people I travel with were a couple of strangers just a few days ago. In this short time, we created a temporary place of warmth, friendship, and contentment.
It is too quiet. I hear only my heartbeat. It is too loud. I don’t like it. It sounds like a clock. I am weirded out by own urge to get away. I wonder why I feel most alone when I am with everybody. I seem to have an inexplicable urge to push people away. Close friends, people I love even. My anxieties bore me.
I wonder how many people right now are having the same thoughts. Seeing the same thing. Living the same life.

Wishes

The sun turns golden. I want to head back. I am hungry. I paddle back to the shore. We eat on top of the small hill. We are entertained by the sunset, passing over the calm lake. Slowly vanishing behind the acorn forest. We eat pasta. For the 4th day in a row. It is starting to get dark. We light a candle and my friends drink beer. We laugh and make memories.
We decide to sleep at the lake today, counting stars and talking life. We move our sleeping bags to the footbridge next to our canoes. We cuddle and wait till it gets pitch black.
As the sun goes down the moon comes up. I am a city kid. I always loved watching the stars. In the city, however, you barely see any.
As we lay there together on the wood of the footbridge, stars appear everywhere. Our head is just at the edge of the wood of the lake. We can see the entire Milkyway. The thunderstorm of the last night took all the clouds with him it seems. We see satellites passing over our heads. Mars is blazing in a red flash above our heads.
Showers of shooting stars journey through the sky. We make countless wishes. They will all come true. One of the girls says that this trip changed her. I agree. They asked me what I wish for I told them, more muscles. They think I am joking. I am not. We talk where would want to be in a year from now. I say maybe, Harvard. Instantly regret using the word maybe.
My friend says that in one year he wants to be happy. I think that happiness is overrated. He gets up and pees in the lake. We laugh. The moonlight shines on his chalky behind.
Mosquitos are having a feast. We fall asleep anyway.
I am in doubt whether or not my journey of becoming a wandering psychologist will be successful. I know however that I will do it anyway. I have no plan B. Plan B’s are for wimps. I am not a wimp. Only sometimes.
As my eyes close, I think about a question. If I could make my dream come true right now, would I do it? Would you do it?
I want to finish today’s post by borrowing the words of Allan Watts. As always thank you for reading following me on my weird journey.

let’s suppose that you were able every night to dream any dream you wanted to dream, and that you could for example have the power within one night to dream 75 years of time, or any length of time you wanted to have.
And you would, naturally, as you began on this adventure of dreams, you would fulfill all your wishes. You would have every kind of pleasure you could conceive. And after several nights of 75 years of total pleasure each you would say “Well that was pretty great”. But now let’s have a surprise, let’s have a dream which isn’t under control, where something is gonna happen to me that I don’t know what it’s gonna be.
And you would dig that and would come out of that and you would say “Wow that was a close shave, wasn’t it?”. Then you would get more and more adventurous and you would make further- and further-out gambles what you would dream. And finally, you would dream where you are now. You would dream the dream of living the life that you are actually living today. Alan Watts

Reconnecting With Nature — Mecklenburgische Seenplatte{Travel Journal Day 3}

Solitude

As I write these words, I am alone on my canoe, watching the burning sun vanish slowly behind the pine trees. In my hand, I have my pen and my blog, I am writing. On the surface of the, I see the reflection of the gloaming sunset, it looks like there are two horizons, and I feel like I am flying.
Although I had an extraordinary day with my friends canoeing through the nature parks, I needed some time for myself. I wanted recharge and manifest the profound experiences that I made today. Although I seem very extroverted, at heart I am a loner, and being around people too much to a degree is also exhausts me.
Today I learned many things, one of them is that apparently, mosquitos are really into me, good thing malaria is not a thing in Europe. Sleeping on the floor is really a different experience from sleeping in a made bed. My core intention of this trip was to liberate myself from materialism for a few days and to practice poverty.
My thinking was to internalize that the worst condition, which is for many is to have no money and no house is actually not that bad. I am a person who is very driven sometimes, but also very anxious. For me, understanding that the very condition that I feared so much is actually not that bad liberated me to a degree from a process of inner turmoil and fear that was buzzing inside my head for far too long.
The reason that I started to write was that I wanted to portray my weird journey around the world of trying to get my stuff together. I was just tired of messing up and I wanted to start my own pursuit of investigating unhappiness. I wanted to share my findings with the world in order to add some value this way. Hence on this Blog, I will write about habits, tools, books and real-world case studies and adventures that helped me to battle depression.
So while other travel bloggers might focus on the best spots to party, I want to gather natural antidepressants. I want to engineer myself away from lethargy and depression and towards happiness, contribution, and adventure. I feel that If a weirdo with my background manages to overcome his demons and make his dream come true of becoming a digital nomad that this will show others that transformation is possible, necessary even.
Sleeping hungover in a tent however as stoically romantic as it sounds has also its price. Waking up I feel a bit like the guy from full metal jacked who was beaten by the other soldiers with socks full of soap.
My inner demons particularly love mornings, and voices of self-doubt and fear are the loudest when my body is the weakest. For some time I was looking for morning habits in particular that help me to keep those voices in check, or at least turn the volume down a bit.
So I was walking around the camp, looking like a zombie from the walking dead, lethargic and moody.

Freedom

My friend spots this and insists, that instead of showering I need to swim in the cold lake first thing in the morning, naked, free willy style.
I have no choice he tells me.
As my friend pulls down his shorts he walks/dangles into the lake majestically. I told u guys in the last article that my buddy looks like Patrick Swayze from point break, and I don’t know why but everything he does looks kinda cool. I am the opposite. If there would be a goof scale I would be the end of it.
So I pull down my pants also and run giggly like a little girl(a 2m and 105 kilos little girl) into the cold water.
What follows is a profound experience of freedom. My body and mind are refreshed, renewed even. I am unable to think, I am just there.
I decide to backstroke slowly, and as I dip my head into the water, I unplug. As I dip my ears in the water and glide slowly backwards, the only thing that I hear is the lake, my own breath, and my heartbeat. It feels like I am floating in space.
I am fascinated by this simple but deep experience. Diving into a world far away from my normal daily trance of paying bills, worrying, and stressing out about if other people like me or not.
As I float in this lake my eyes wander around the all surrounding pine forest. I feel at home. I can’t help but think about the many people who are plagued by pain and depression that could be healed here. What if the epidemic of global unhappiness is founded by our lost connection to nature.
What if the missing puzzle piece for treating depression and suffering lies in nature. Modern psychological medicine is always looking for new ways to treat people. But what if the direction is wrong, what if we need to look backwards.
As I swim in the cold lake, I dive into the green water, I stop breathing. My Emotions stop. I am just surviving. There is no conditioned mindset in my brain anymore today, I am free.
 
 

Josh Waitzkin " The Art Of Learning" {Book Review}

 

What is The Art Of Learning about?

Josh Waitzkin chronicles in the Art Of Learning about how he became an internationally known chess master and martial arts world champion. Furthermore is Josh Waitzkin is the subject for the Hollywood movie Searching for Bobby Fischer.
In his book, The Art of Learning Josh Waitzkin walks us through his approach to learning and how he managed to become world-class in multiple disciplines.
The books start in 2004 in Tapei, Taiwan where the Tai Chi Chuan Push Hands World Championships was fought. In the video below you can see the entire fight between Josh Waitzkin and the Taiwanese champion called”buffalo”.

Before I butcher this moment completely, here are Josh Waitzkins own thoughts to describe this key moment in his life.

Forty seconds before round two, and I’m lying on my back trying to breathe.
Pain all through me. Deep breath. Let it go. I won’t be able to lift my shoulder tomorrow, it won’t heal for over a year, but now it pulses, alive, and I feel the air vibrating around me, the stadium shaking with chants, in Mandarin, not for me.
My teammates are kneeling above me, looking worried. They rub my arms, my shoulders, my legs. The bell rings. I hear my dad’s voice in the stands, ‘C’mon Josh!’ Gotta get up. I watch my opponent run to the center of the ring. He screams, pounds his chest. The fans explode. They call him Buffalo. Bigger than me, stronger, quick as a cat. But I can take him — if I make it to the middle of the ring without falling over. I have to dig deep, bring it up from somewhere right now. Our wrists touch, the bell rings, and he hits me like a Mack truck.
Who could have guessed it would come to this? Just a few years earlier I had been competing around the world in elite chess tournaments. Since I was eight years old, I had consistently been the highest rated player for my age in the United States, and my life was dominated by competitions and training regimens designed to bring me into peak form for the next national or world championship. I had spent the years between ages fifteen and eighteen in the maelstrom of American media following the release of the film Searching for Bobby Fischer, which was based on my dad’s book about my early chess life. I was known as America’s great young chess player and was told that it was my destiny to follow in the footsteps of immortals like Bobby Fischer and Garry Kasparov, to be world champion.
Josh Waitzkin The Art Of Learning

The Art of learning is not your typical how I did it books, but a deep and philosophical guide to inner optimal performance. So lets start! Who is this Josh Waitzkin…

Who is Josh Waitzkin

Josh Waitzkin definitely knows the road to success. When Josh was 6 years old he started to play “blitz Chess” against street hustlers in the infamous Washington Square Park. He watched and absorbed, and in no time he became the king of the hustlers himself.
Josh proceeded to make his name in the chess world. He became the only person to win the National primary, Elementary, Junio High School, Senior High School, U.S Cadet, and U.S Junior Closed chess championship before he even turned 16. (2)
There are famous scenes of Josh Waitzkin playing 20-50 Chessboards at the same time against other people where he walked from table to table and beat them all.
Josh Waitzkin was, in consequence, called a “chess prodigy”. But where he excels, in my opinion, is his systematic approach to learning. Because he was successful in many fields that have almost nothing in common but Josh.
Once he left the Chess world behind, he won multiple national Championships in Tai Chi Chuan and two World Championships. After that, he became a black belt under Marcelo Garcia who is the Michael Jordan of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.

4 Lessons I Learned from Art Of Learning?

Stretch to Grow

I was particularly interested in Josh Waitzkin because he is not shying away from failures and loses and even crisis. When Josh was 6 years old he started to play against adult hustlers who were just crushing him. Through those first loses he learned where his weaknesses were and this made him better. Other young talents in various disciplines often only compete against players of their same age in order to not demotivate them. Josh had to come to terms with losing very early.
Growing up as an aspiring basketball player I can relate to this principle. From a very early age, I competed against my big brother, who was a not only a professional basketball player but also a giant( 2.06cm). So my entire upbringing I played against him and his buddies and constantly got my ass kicked. Coming to terms with losing.

There is a saying in Germany, that when you are the smartest/strongest person in the room, you are in the wrong room.
And I believe that this is very true. We grow through adaption to obstacles, and stress of competing against people who push us to grow.
Even as an adult I try to live according to this principle. Most of my friends are far more successful than me and they motivate me to grow and to keep up with them.
Also constantly getting your ass kicked is a good teacher to stay humble, because while being confident you realize that you have much to learn and that you do not have to take yourself to serious.
I believe that humans have an extraordinary potential for adaptation. And furthermore that creating a social environment of people who force you to stretch is the only way to thrive.
So I encourage you to evaluate your social context. Are you the big fish in a small pott? Or do you have friends who inspire you to become better and to grow?
After all, learning and growing is fun and a necessity for happiness.
 

Thrive in Chaos

Josh Waitzkin emphasizes multiple times that a big part of his philosophy of learning is to thrive in Chaos.
In chess, Josh favored chaos on the board. Normal Chess players favored, clean, memorized patterns. Josh uses confusion and playing in the unorganized game to his advantage because he loved to play when the conditions are not perfect. This allowed him to dictate the tone of the battle and thrive in an atmosphere where other players where uncomfortable.
I think this is true for life also. We don’t just want to thrive when all of our favored conditions are met. When we feel good, when we have all of our preferred resources around us, when we are in the right flow it is really easy to function.
Josh teaches to thrive also when conditions are not ideal, but the contrary; chaotic.
A perfect example is meditation. People who learn meditation in perfect conditions, nobody is around, its quiet and it is the perfect time of the day.
Ultimately, however, we don’t want to be relaxed and calm when everything is right, but we want to be in our zen when the shit hits the fan when we are in a storm. This is when we need it the most.
We do not want to be able to only meditate in a flower garden, but also in situations that are not ideal, that are even stressful.

“One thing I have learned as a competitor is that there is a clear distinction between what it takes to be decent, what it takes to be good, what it takes to be great and what it takes to be among the best…” Josh Waitzkin

A beautiful example that Josh Waitzkin uses is parenting and bad weather.
We are conditioned to teach our kids, that when it is raining it is bad weather, and we don’t get out. Josh made it a habit with his sun to celebrate every storm. Every time there is a snow or rain storm he goes out with his son and dances. In order to teach his son, that success is not dependent on perfect outside conditions.
This to me has a deep application for life also. Everybody can be happy when our needs are being met when everybody is healthy when we have enough money, and peace around us. Being happy in spite of things happening around us is a completely different challenge. And you can see that Josh Waitzkin is not only a master of learning but a master of living a life of harmony and mindfulness.

Cultivate the Soft Zone

In the Art of Learning Josh speaks a lot about Flow, which he calls the “Soft Zone”.

“Flow with whatever happens, integrating every ripple of life into a creative moment” (Waitzkin 54)

In the book, Josh describes the most intense chess game he ever played. During a national title match of his, an earthquake shook the event halls.(3) Each competitor was lost and broke down by this external stress of fear and uncertainty.
Josh, who loved chaos thrived in this situation, and it helped him to reach a higher level of consciousness. A mental state in which he is capable of seeing things differently, and integrating the subconscious into the conscious. A phenomenon that basketball player describes as the zone.

The zone or the flow is almost a mystical concept of when your brain operates on a different level, you see things different, things slow down for you. Josh Waitzkin who coached many world-class performers says that we can create a gateway to this states of mind by conditioning.
This starts with any habit, by finding a trigger. This trigger should be a key activity in your life that gives you inner focus and tranquility.
What are you doing when nothing else seems to exist?
Although flow is not something that you can provoke 10 out of 10 times, you can manipulate the odds, and condition yourself to be more likely to slide into the zone.
Creating flow generating rituals is a necessity. For me, for example, writing to while listening to a song on repeat raises my chances of coming into the flow.
The key is to recognize your own patterns. What did you eat before? What music did you listen to? Who was around? What location? Did you perform a particular routine that day?
If you can identify your the before going behavior, and you can simulate that, in my opinion, you raise the probability to slip into flow.
Easier, however, in my opinion, is that you start by isolating variables that are in way of you getting into flow.
Things that distract you, behaviors and people, circumstances that are the enemy to your mindfulness and inner harmony.
For me, for example, this would be being hungover, having toxic people around, social media notifications, or eating heavy junk food, for example, are all enemies to my mindfulness.
Mitigating toxic influences is a topic for itself. But I think that life by itself can be distracting enough, so isolating the common enemies to our flow state is key in order to live a harmonious life.
 

Become an Incremental Learner

In The Art of Learning, Josh Waitzkin explains the difference between entity and incremental learners.
A concept that Carol Dweck explains perfectly in the book Mindset. Click here to view it on Amazon.

Learners who have an entity approach, or as Carol Dweck call it, have a fixed mindset. They think their skills, intelligence is fixed like an entity.
Incremental learners on the other learners believe that with hard work, the right strategy and optimal resource management one can learn almost anything.
Incremental learners praise themselves not only for their outcome but for their effort and strategy. While an entity learner lives and dies with his result. If he fails a text, it is because he is too stupid, not because he learned not enough, or because he used the wrong strategy. This, of course, has terrible consequences of the self-esteem. If they fail to often, they say things like ” math is just not for me” for example, or “I am just not good at languages”. While in reality, their brain is perfectly capable of learning those disciplines. With this belief in mind, step by step, incrementally, a total beginner can eventually become the master. This principle is not only important for learning but also for happiness. Failure is unavoidable in my opinion. And if you determine your entire self-worth over your production, then you are going to have a hard time. If you are like me, and you fail often, this mental pattern can cause unhappiness, and sometimes even depression. If you praise yourself however on being a hard worker, a person who never gives up, somebody who does not know everything but knows that there are people who know the answer are much better off in my opinion.
The problem is, what happens if you praise a child for example on beeing particular smart at math, and that kid fails the exam? The only logical consequence for that kid is that it is stupid.
They may fail, but they don’t completely fail as a person.
 

What do I not like about the Art Of Learning?

For much of the book, the Art of Learning Josh Waitzkin described his vision of the road to mastery. The idea is that you start with the fundamentals, get a solid foundation in the understanding of the principles and that you then expand and refine the repertoire. U fuse then these principles with your own style, or how he calls it your own funk. This by itself is a pathway that takes very long in my opinion and is contrary to my idea that there are shortcuts to mastery.
His approach to learning seems to take a lot of time and is not aimed to be mediocre, but to really excel. In my opinion however often it is enough to become good at a skill and then move on to the next one. I think you don’t have to become a poet in order to master the English language for example. There is so much to learn on this incredible planet, and if you focus too much on mastery you may lose out on a platter of skills that you can achieve within short, or mediocre time.
I believe the speed of how much information our brain can take in, is highly underrated. Although I like his almost philosophical approach to learning something towards mastery this is the only point I don’t like.
Besides that, there is nothing to cut away from this gem. A special book, by a very special man. And Josh Waitzkin does a great job at portraying his journey of mastering both the chess world and the martial arts scene.
If you want to check out other great books, click here to see my book club.

Call to Action

  1. Watch the video below

Sources

1 http://www.joshwaitzkin.com/
2.https://tim.blog/2014/03/20/the-art-of-learning-joshua-waitzkin/
3. https://www.quora.com/What-are-some-takeaways-from-Josh-Waitzkins-The-Art-of-Learning
 

How to Heal Yourself from Fear, Shame and Guilt — The 7 Chakra Meditation

 
Warning: In this article, imma go all spiritual on your ass!
In my pursuit of becoming the best version of myself, I studied conversations, interviews, books, podcasts, and habits of ultra-successful people. My Idea was that if I identified patterns, and habits and routines of the successful I might become successful myself. And one habit was popping up over and over again: Meditation. It seems that most of the super successful people in the world have some sort of meditative practice. To name a few: Katy Perry, Madonna, Hugh Jackman, Clint Eastwood, Nicole Kidman, Oprah, Kobe Bryant, Arianna Huffington,  Jerry Seinfeld and many more. 1

I normally do my mindfulness exercises in the morning. It’s the first thing I do when I get up. I find that to be the best way to start the day. It gets me in balance before the busyness and hecticness of the day kicks off.” Kobe Bryant

I started my search for mindfulness in a period of my life where I was not as happy as I wanted to be. But I thought that if I would just plain model my behavior after the habits of happy and successful people maybe I would get similar results. I thought that if they can do it, so can I.
So I started with a guided meditative practice from Mindvalley which is called six phase meditation. I wrote a fairly short article about it. Click here to read it
.
 
The 6 Phase Meditation is a very positive meditation, it focuses on gratitude and future visualization. It is like a best of mash-up of all the best-guided meditations. But Something was missing, it somehow felt incomplete to me. In my opinion, in order to really heal ourselves, we must go beyond the positive. Only by confronting our fears and letting go of our blockages we can truly move forward. Questions like: What are you most afraid of? What do you blame yourself for? What are you ashamed of? What are your biggest disappointments in yourself? What are you sad about? What lies do you tell others and yourself? What are you attached to? I hope that after this article and doing the suggested meditation that you will be able to answer these questions for yourself. And with that free yourself.
After some research, I found out that there is a guided meditation that deals with this blockages: the 7 Chakra meditation.
..so what are the 7 Chakras

What is Chakra?

Chakra is Sanskrit and it stands for “wheel circle”. It is believed to be a psychic-energy center in the esoteric traditions of Indian religions. 2
Think of it as wheels of energy throughout the body. There are seven main chakras, which align the spine, starting from the base of the spine and go all the way up to the head. Imagine a swirling wheel of energy where matter and spirit and consciousness meet. This invisible energy is called Prana, it is the vital life force, which keeps us strong, energetic, happy and alive. In the video below you hear a guru explain the Pranic System and the 7 Chakras.

 
What are the 7 Chakras
One of my favorite cartoons is Avatar, the last Airbender. The show plays in a fictional alternate world where people are able to manipulate the 4 elements ( earth, water, air, fire). The protagonist Aang, a small monk boy is the avatar which means that he is the only person in the world who can bend more than one element, in fact, he can bend all 4 of them. And with this power, it is his destiny to bring balance to the world.
Why am I drifting off and writing about a cartoon?
Because there is a beautiful and fairly accurate description of the 7 chakras in the show. In the video below a guru explains Aang how to open all of the 7 Chakras. Watch it now :

Have you watched the video?! No? Damn you are even lazier than me, now watch the video then continue reading.

1. Muladhara or Root Chakra

The Muladhara Chakra is also called the Root Chakra and it is located at the base of the spine. This Chakra deals with survival and it is blocked by fear. In order to cleanse this Chakra, you have to face what you are afraid of the most and let it go. Please watch the video below.

The scene above is from the movie the empire strikes back. Luke Skywalker trains with his master Yoda and is sent into the “Evil Cave”. In this Cave, Luke has to confront what he is most afraid of. So in order to cleanse this Chakra, you have to face your biggest fear, or fear itself.
Personal note: Caution soul striptease ahead.
I believe that everything we do in life is either to gain pleasure or avoid pain. Fear itself is a survival mechanism that’s sole purpose is to protect us from pain. In my opinion, Depression( which I struggled with from time to time) is an overreaction to fear. You and your Brain have together decided that everything in this world brings you pain, therefore it is only logical to not get out of bed anymore for example. This of cause is a wrong conclusion and is called psychological terms a wrong neural association. I think therefore it is important that we at a certain point conquer the fear of survival itself, and show our brain that we are in charge. In order to fully conquer this fear, for example, I jumped out of an Airplane although I’m afraid of heights (which is funny fear to have when you are a 2-meter tall giant). I wanted to show my brain and myself that I’m in charge and that I act in spite of fear. So ask yourself what are you most afraid of? What would you encounter in the evil cave? 

2. “Svadhishthana” or Sacral Chakra

The second Chakra is located at the center of your lower belly. This Chakra deals with pleasure and is blocked by guilt. In order to cleanse this Chakra you have to confront yourself: what do you blame yourself for?
Did you let somebody down? Did you hurt someone that was close to you? Did fail your parents or your spouse?
In order to cleanse the Sacral Chakra, you have to accept that these things happened. And that you need to let go and forgive yourself.

Case Study: Peter Parker ( secretly known as Spiderman)

Peter Parker was bitten by a radioactive spider and developed super-Powers. Shortly after he participated in a wrestling event which he won. The Prize Money was 2000 $. The organizer of the event was a crook and he did not want to give Peter Parker the full prize money. Peter was very angry about this of course. Peter walks out of the door. 5 minutes later another guy walks in and robbed the organizer with a gun, and although Peter Parker could have helped the organizer he does not because he wronged him. Later that day that same criminal kills Peter Parkers Uncle. Now Peter blames himself for the death of his Uncle. Peter becomes all depressed which messes up his superhero endeavors and even his relationship with his beloved mary jane. In the video below you can see how his aunt tells him that he needs to forgive himself.

 

3.“Manipura” or Solar Plexus Chakra

The third Chakra is located in the stomach and deals with willpower. And it is blocked by shame.
In order to cleanse this chakra, you have to ask yourself “what are you ashamed of? And what are your biggest disappointments in yourself?
In order to open this Chakra, you need to love and accept all aspects of you, not only the good ones. Your mistakes also made you who you are and you can not escape this darker part of you, even if this part is not pretty at all. You are human and therefore you make mistakes.
We all fuck up, and some(like me for example) more than others. Since time machines are not yet available(Hurry Elon!) we can not travel back and change the things that happened. We can not undo things. But what we can change is our relationship towards the things that happened.
In my opinion, one of the biggest differences between successful people and unhappy people is their approach towards problems. While depressed people, for example, focus on the problem, successful and happy people focus on the solution. Reflection is important, yes, but reliving your failures over and over again only brings out self-punishment in my opinion.
 

4 “Anahata” or Heart Chakra

The fourth Chakra is located in the heart, and it deals with love, and it is blocked by grief. In order to open this Chakra, you need to lay out all your grief in front of you. What are your losses? What are you sad about?
Dealing with loss is a hard thing to do indeed. But the eastern spiritual tradition believes that love is energy and that lost love is reborn in form of new love. Ask yourself what is the deepest, most painful loss you ever experienced? A loss of a job? A loss of health? A loss of a friend? A loss of a family member? A loss of your beloved?
How did you ever get over it? Are you maybe still holding on to it?
Loss is something everybody has to deal with. Click here to read my article on how to turn trauma and loss into your own superpower.  The following case example is a story that shook me to my core but also inspired me and showed me that we as humans can overcome anything.

Case study: Irina Lucidi

Both daughters of Irna Lucidi were kidnapped in 2006 by Irenias Husband. They walked out of the door in order to get to their school and this was the last time she saw them. Her Husband kidnapped the two daughters and later committed suicide. So it is unknown if the two daughters are still alive or not.
How as a human can you deal with such a loss? Irena, of course, was torn and she went through all the 4 stages of grief which are

  1. Denial
  2. Anger
  3. Sadness
  4. Fear

I believe that we as humans need to have a sense of control in our life in order to feel happy. This, in my opinion, is one of the reasons why it is so hard for traumatized persons to be happy. Irina lived in a constant state of fear. The fear that something unpredicted would happen to her again. And she asked the question: Why me?

But then she did something that inspired me to no ends. She had a vision of her children in the darkness and she wanted to bring them to the light. She changed the question. Instead of asking why me? she asked herself: How can I use this devastating tragedy to make the world a better place?
In consequence of this changed mental approach, she founded the Missing Children Switzerland organization. Click here to see the website and to donor to their cause.
To use something this tragic and turn it into something that made the world a better place is in my eyes truly inspirational. And if she can do it, so can you.
 
 
 
5 “Vishuddha” or Throat Chakra
The fifth Chakra is located in the throat and deals with sound Chakra. It deals with Truth and it is blocked by lies. Lies that we tell ourselves and lies that we tell others. What part about yourself are you in denial in? What lies do you tell others and yourself?

Case study: Disney’s Gaston /Narcissistic Personality Disorder

Gaston is a fictional character from Walt Disneys ” Beauty and the Beast.

He is a guy who is completely focused on impressing other persons. He does this because his own true view of himself is that he is not enough. He does everything that he can in order to convince and distract others from what he believes he really is, which is that he thinks he is nothing. In order to compensate this feeling of inadequacy, he plays a huge charade to convince others constantly that he is someone. He has become the manifestation of lies that he is telling himself. 
Click here to read my article about the psychological mechanism of feeling not enough.
In order to open the 5th Chakra, you have to face your lies. You have to accept your true self and love it unconditionally.

“Above all, don’t lie to yourself. The man who lies to himself and listens to his own lie comes to a point that he cannot distinguish the truth within him, or around him, and so loses all respect for himself and for others. And having no respect he ceases to love.”
― Fyodor Dostoyevsky,

6 “Ajna” or Third Eye Chakra

The sixth Chakra is located between the eyes and it deals with insight and it is blocked by illusion. In yogic metaphysics, it is believed that one of the biggest illusions humans have is the illusion of separation. The illusion that we are separated from the rest of the world. Because in fact, we are all one. In the video below the third Eye is explained by a spiritual master from India who is called Sadhguru.

If you open this chakra it is said that you can see everything clearly, everything that is inside you and everything that is outside of you.

7 “Sahasrara” Crown Chakra

The Crown Chakra is the seventh Chakra. it is located at the top of the head and it deals with pure cosmic energy and it is blocked by attachment.
In order to open this Chakra, you must let go of all earthly attachment. What are you attached to? Money? Prestige? Love? Sex? It is said that in order to open this Chakra you need to let go of all earthly attachments.
Click here to read more about the Crown Chakra. One of the ways to heal and open the crown Chakra is a part of the 6 phase meditation. Click here to read what the 6 phase mediation is about.
In the six phase meditation, you imagine a golden or silver bright light that illuminates the crown of your head. This light is supposed to reconnect people with themselves and to the world and their spirit.
 
 

Call to action

  1. Click on the video below and Unblock all 7 of your Chakras with the guided Mediation.
  2. Write down on a piece of paper: What are you most afraid of?
  3. What do you blame yourself for?
  4. What are you ashamed of? What are your biggest disappointments in yourself?
  5. What are you sad about? What were your losses?
  6. What lies do you tell yourself and others?
  7. What are you attached to?
  8. Now take all your notes and burn them in order to free yourself.

 

Want to read more about the 7 Chakras? Sources!

  1. https://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/03/14/famous-people-who-meditate_n_6850088.html
  2. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chakra
  3. http://www.chakras.info/7-chakras/
  4. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Disappearance_of_Alessia_and_Livia_Schepp
  5. https://www.missingchildren.ch/
  6. https://www.mindvalleyacademy.com/blog/open-your-crown-chakra

 
 
 
 

Vagabonding by Rolf Potts{Book Review}

One of my favorite movies of all time is Oliver Stone’s Wall Street with Michael Douglas and Charlie Sheen. In this movie Charlie Sheen, a very promising talent in the stock market told his girlfriend about his dreams and why he is hustling on wallstreet so much.
“I think if I can make a bundle of cash before I’m thirty and I can get out of this racket, and I’ll be able to ride my motorcycle across China”.
This scene to me very much captures the essence of how the western world sees long-term traveling. We see travel as some kind ultra luxurious recurring dream that is only reserved for the ultra-privileged. Rolf Potts makes a brilliant calculation in his book Vagabonding. He shows that if Charlie Sheen would have cleaned toilets for 7 months he could have made his dream a reality and have enough money to start his adventure. And with 3 months more of cleaning toilets, he would have enough money to buy a new bike as well.
How is that possible?
We believe that long-term travel is something that we can only do after we have become super successful. Coming from a psychological background, I have a natural curiosity to find out what people really want to do and why their behavior differs so much from what they want. One of the questions I’m Asking people a lot is : “If you would be given 2500 $ every month of passive income, what would you do with your life”?
The answer that I got most often, is that they would quit their current job and travel the world. Growing up in Europe this mental fallacy is most manifested in our view of retirement. We kinda believe that we have to work our behinds off until we are 65 and then we can do whatever our heart desires. The idea that you invest and sacrifice the most valuable years of your life in order to do what you really want, in the least valuable years of your life is just a bad idea. If you are sick and tired of waiting for your life to start, then this article is for you.
As simple as this sounds, this really rattled my cage. The dreams of most people are accessible today! If you are resourceful enough and don’t mind eating some beans from time to time then traveling is constantly available for you. As a broke student, I managed to travel to travel to 50 plus countries so far, and I had a kick-ass adventure on every continent. And if I can do it, you can do it too. So who is the author of Vagabonding?
 

Who is Rolf Potts?

Rolf Potts is an American travel writer. He is best known for his Book Vagabonding: An Uncommon Guide to the Art of Long-Term World Travel which was translated into several foreign languages, and Marco Polo Didn’t Go There ( Tavelers Tales, 2008). Potts rarely stay long in one place. He feels at home in Bangkok, Cairo, Pusan, New York or anywhere on the six continents. He is a true traveler and I highly recommend that you check him out. Click here to get to his blog

“The value of your travels does not hinge on how many stamps you have in your passport when you get home — and the slow nuanced experience of a single country is always better than the hurried, superficial experience of forty countries.” — Rolf Potts
 

 

Whats does Vagabonding mean? What is the book about?

Vagabonding is a term for taking time off from your normal life,even from yourself, this can be 4 weeks, or four months or four years. The goal is to discover the world on your own terms. A Vagabond is not a tourist but a traveler. It is a philosophy of life that you are a curious observer who explores whatever is desirable to you.
According to Rolf Potts Vagabonding consists of 3 things.

  1. The act of leaving behind the orderly world to travel independently for an extended period of time.
  2. A privately meaningful manner of travel that emphasizes creativity, adventure, awareness, simplicity, discovery, independence, realism, good humor and the growth of the spirit.
  3. A deliberate way of living that makes the freedom of travel possible.

 

A tourist does not know where he has been. A traveler does not know where he is going” — Rolf Potts

Watch this video to get a short summary of the book.

In the book Vagabonding Potts writes about :

  • financing your travel time
  • determining your destination
  • adjusting to life on the road
  • handling travel adversity
  • coming home from travel and re-assimilation back into ordinary life.

3 Lessons I learned from reading Vagabonding

  • Become a stoic

Being a Vagabonder starts a long time before you reach the airport. It starts at home. Every trip starts at home. If you have declared to yourself that you want to travel long term it starts with changing some of your habits. In the video below Tim Ferris explains how to apply stoic philosophy to your life.       
 

From this hour I ordin myself loos’d of limits and imginry lines,
Going where I list, my own master total and absolute,
Listening to others, considering well what they say,
Pausing, searcing, receiving, contemplating,
Gently, but with undeniable will, divesting myself
of the holds that would hold me.
— Walt Whitman

  • Stop expanding.

There are only two ways to have more money. First is to earn more and the second is to spend less. If you radically reduce what you are spending, you will earn the required money for your trip much faster. I started, for example, to stop buying new clothes. I have 8 jackets, I don’t need a 9th one. It is ridiculous how much people are obsessed with making more money and how little they care about handling the money they already have. Click here to read my article about money management. 

  • Start saving.

Instead of going to the club every weekend, stay at home and have an amazing time playing games with your friends. Instead of being lazy ( and unhealthy) and ordering a pizza, cook for yourself. For example in Germany ordering a pizza costs about 15 euros. For that amount of money, you could live for 3 days if you cook yourself some minimalistic food. Make some sacrifices that enable you to live your dream. Find out what you spend your money on, and cut out some of the bullshit you don’t need. Sell everything you don’t need. Old video games, old clothes that second laptop you are never using.

  • It changed how I viewed work

As a student, I had a lot of shitty jobs. Working in construction, distributing pizza and so on. By far the most shitty job I ever had was a job for the biggest Bank in Hamburg as a mascot. I was dressed as a mouse and needed to dance for children in this costume. Being a 2-meter tall giant basically, every child was afraid of me. My coworker was an old Chinese hag that continuously gave me hell that I need to dance more and better. Looking back at it it was hilarious, but at that time it was the worst!
But what kept me going, and motivated me was that I had booked a flight earlier that month to Asia. So that humiliating job was the first part of my adventure, and viewing it as such made it not only bearable but also fun for me.
This is why I believe that everybody should have a Why. And if you why excites you enough you can do bear almost any how.
I believe that in order to grow, travel is a necessity. Humans are explorers, and I believe that the world would be a better place if we all would travel more and explore the world, and within that explore ourselves.
So start vagabonding!
 

Call to action

  1. Create a Bucketlist with 25 things you want to experience in the world
  2. Identify 3 areas in your life where you could save money.
  3. Write down 5 things that you could make money within a different county.
  4. Write down 3 things that you would do if there would be no money in the world?
  5. Write down 5 positive things that might happen to you if you start vagabonding.

How 6 Jars Can Make You Financially Free

Why am I writing this article?

 
( caution soul striptease ahead)
I was struggling with money for years, and my lack money of it was causing me major pain. 2 years ago I hit financial rock bottom. I was struggling big time. I could not pay my rent anymore. Because I was technically still a student at that time, welfare would not cover for me. In order to pay my rent, I out rented my own apartment on Air BnB. Becoming technically homeless for months. It was bad. I was crashing at my friend’s places and I had a 24/7 gym I could sometimes sleep at.  Years later it still gives me the shivers in what a poor, broken mental state I was in during that time. I began to live off my credit card and indebted myself badly. My poor financial state was making my causing me major pain and I was in a vicious circle. I needed to do something. I was in a downward spiral.

If you want to change the fruit, you have to change the roots. If you want to change the visible you have to change the invisible first”. T. Harv Eker

I realized that in order to get out of this state I first need to take ownership of my situation. I was the problem. I was spending more than I was making. My financial habits were dysfunctional. And in order to find a solution, I needed to become the solution myself. I started changing everything about me and around me. I switched bad habits for healthy ones. I changed my appearance, throw away all my clothes and everything that reminded me of my old broken me. I realized that I had built by accident a completely dysfunctional ecosystem of people around me. So a lot of my friends had to go. And I began to look for ways to accelerate my growth and escape forwards. Since my lack of money was a big cause of pain in my life, I started to look at how I did things.
I realized that I knew nothing about finances! So I began to deconstruct my own financial psychology. What habits and beliefs were governing my financial behavior? What is the money software that is running on my brain? What was my relationship towards money? Who put it there? How can I change it
 
Since the software in my brain was giving me horrible results, I began to view it as flawed. So I had to look for updates. I needed a new brain. I needed new financial habits.  And I needed them fast because staying broke, was causing me so much pain that I needed to escape. I felt like my behind was on a hot plate, and my only thought was to get away from it. Every action, every interaction I had was in order to get me somewhere else. Somewhere safe. Somewhere forward.

Where do you get a new brain?

I started to read books, listened to podcasts, ted talks, I went to seminars, took classes, drove to start up conferences and slowly things were starting to change. I was in an upward spiral. In this article, I am going to show you a money management habit that I have found that completely changed my financial world, a free money management system. I learned about this technique when I was taking a webinar at Mind Valley Masterclass by T. Harv Eker.

Study Harv’s work as if your life depended on it because financially it may ” Tony Robbins

T. Harv Eker is the author of the bestseller “Secrets of the Millionaire Mind which I highly I highly recommend if you want to buy it click here. Harv taught over 1.5 million people through his online courses on how to create financial freedom through his different financial online seminars.

Harv is a self-made millionaire, I first stumbled over one of his courses when I was surfing on Mind Valley. Harv has devoted his life to studying self-made millionaires, and he has identified replicable commonalities from the ultra-rich that he teaches in his course ” the spiritual millionaire”. I was first super skeptical, because of the high cost (250 $) and the scammy title.
I love the Mind Valley guys and I trust them and their products, and I was in desperate need to find some answers that would help me get control of my finances.

One of my major takeaways was that all successful people had some kind of money management system. I did not have any system at all. And I was spending more money than I was earning. I did not even look at my bank account because it was frustrating me that I had so little, and so I used my credit card until it would not work anymore. T. Harv Eker introduced me to the 6 jar system. And ever since I had no money problems, and I know that I will never have money problems again in my life. So what is the 6 Jar method?
The 6 jar method
Basically, in the 6 jar money management system, you split your money up into six different accounts. You have a certain percentage of your money to put into each account. You can use bank accounts or actual jars. Think of it as self-induced tax system.

So what are the 6 accounts that you split your money into?

“The single biggest difference between financial success and financial failure is how well you manage your money. It’s simple: to master money, you must manage money.” T. Harv Eker2

 
 1. Necessities Accounts (NEC – 50%)
This account is to manage your everyday expenses. This includes your rent, debt, food, clothes, gas etc.
This was a gamechanger. Because before I only had one Jar. All my necessities were coming out of my one bank account, whenever I was traveling around the world I depleted that one bank account completely. The Idea that I need to give 50% of my income away was super radical to me, but I made the decision to do everything this course was teaching me.
 
 

2. Play Account ( PLY- 10%)

Money that comes out of the Play account you use to have fun.  T Harv Eker believes that in order to become financially free your soul needs to be happy. The whole purpose of this account is to bring joy to yourself. An expensive bottle of red wine? a massage? An epic road trip with your buddies? Use the play account for everything your heart desires. But don’t use 1 euro of this account for anything else than fun!
 
 

Financial Freedom Account ( FFA – 10%)

This is your golden goose. This jar is your ticket to financial freedom that will make you rich eventually.
The money that you put into this jar is used only for investment and building passive income streams. YOU ARE NEVER ALLOWED TO SPEND THIS MONEY. NEVER!
The only time you are allowed to spend this money is once you become financially free. You are financially free when you make your desired yearly income without having to work. And even then you are only allowed to spend your returns. Never the principal.

Education Account ( EDU – 10%)

This Jar is to sharpen your Saw. Succesful people all have in common that they sharpen their saw(their brain). Therefore in order to emulate the results of successful people, we copy their behavior. Click here to read my article about 7 habits of highly effective people. This account is to educate yourself and make yourself better. This can be books, online courses, tickets to online courses, language apps etc. If you are a student, your tuition fees do not go out of the education jar but out of the necessity jar.

“Rich people constantly learn and grow. Poor people think they already know.” T. Harv Eker

Long-term saving for spending Account (LTS – 10%)

Money in this Account is for bigger purchases. This Jar is for your next vacation, your new car etc. This jar is like your play jar, but for things that are more expensive and take a bit more to save.
I use this Jar mostly for my vagabonding expenses. But if you want to get some more expensive toys like a new watch a playstation or a new gaming computer god bless you, but you need to wait until you have enough in your LTS Account.
One thing that causes people a lot of problems it to mix the Jars. If you spend your entire money on your new car, holiday or luxury you will experience major discomfort. When I was traveling the world I was always dead broke when I came back because I depleted all my jars. If you choose to manage your money like this you will have to deal with constant worry and you will start to question eventually the trip itself.
Having a different Account system frees your mind because the System is doing the thinking for you.

Give Account ( GIV- 10%)

The Money in this jar is for charity. Use the money to do some good. Send it to a charity organization you respect, or buy with it some food and cook food for the homeless. This is up to you. T. Harv Eker believes that by giving away money the universe will reward you by giving you back more. I believe however that as long as you are a charity yourself that you can use these 5% on your own family if you have poverty inside your circle.

“The mark of true wealth is determined by how much one can give away.” T. Harv Eker


 

What do you do if your income is not enough to split it? ( Trick question

A lot of people say ” I would love to have this money management habit, but I cannot do it! I don’t have enough money coming in to split it“, or statements like ” My expenses are too high, there is no way I can afford to split my money into different accounts“.
Harv would get infuriated! I usually say to those persons: “Shut it!“. You tried your system for years. Did it work? If you are broke then it did not work!
 
So you have to switch your old money management software to a better one. Nobody said that you had to put 1000$ into your account every day.

“If you keep doing what you’ve always done, you are going to keep getting what you’ve always got. You gotta switch it up!” T. Harv Eker

Do not fool yourself with statements like “ I don’t have any money to manage“. That is losers talk.
It does not matter if you make 10,000 $ a week, or 1 $ a week. The habit is possible for every person. Because it works with a percentage and not a fixed amount.

The habit is much, much more important than the amount” — T harv Eker

How does the 6 jar method work?

The Idea is that you let the 6 jar system do the thinking for you. And T. Harv Eker believes that the fastest way to become financially well is to manage the money that you have well.

Storytime <3:

Imagine you are a Parent and you go to the shopping center with your beloved child. It is a beautiful sunny day and on the way out you buy your child a scoop of ice cream. Your child looks excited. But your child is a goofy one, and it drops the scoop of ice cream on the floor. Your son now asks you to buy a new one. Your child is sad, and it asks you to not only buy you a new scoop of vanilla, but it wants a second scoop of chocolate ice cream.  
What do you do? Do you buy your child 2 scoops of Icecream after he just dropped the first scoop you bought him?
If you would buy your child 2 scoops after he just dropped the first one T Harv Eker would probably slap you right across your face.
The correct response would be to say: ” I love you son, but before I buy you 2 scoops you first need to show me that you can handle 1″.
 
 
 
 

This is where I go all spiritual on your ass.

If you show the universe that you can handle the amount of money that is given to you right now, it will give you more. If you mismanage your money, you will not get any more.
Why the heck should the Universe give you more if you can not even handle the money that you have right now. Show the universe that you can handle what you have and it will give you more.
To this day I can’t really explain how this principle works, but it does. Since I started the 6 Jar method magic started to happen. And I went from borderline homeless to living a life on my terms in a big ass apartment where I live with my best friends. And I feel like the Universe has my back.
Decide right now: Are you going to get 6 jars and start managing your money today?
 
 
 

Call to action

  1. Go out and get 6 jars( or 6 bank accounts)
  2. Start splitting your money
  3. Write down what your money blueprint is (what is money for you, what is your relationship with money, how do you feel about money)
  4. Write down what your parent’s money blueprint is/was
  5. Write down 25 answers on how you can make more money. Then take a micro action and do one of the answers today!
  6. Write down 5 reasons why you deserve to be financially independent

 
 

Want to read more?

http://6jars.com/
www.mindvalley.com
http://blog.harveker.com/6-step-money-managing-system/

The 6 Phase Mediation

Why Meditation

Why write about the 6 phase mediation?
From the get-go, I was very skeptical towards meditation. Coming from a scientific background I didn’t hold meditation and homeopathic medicine in the highest regards. I used to believe in behavior psychology, in cause and effect and that everything had a rational explanation. 
I thought it was a lot of woo wuuu.
I was never much into religion either, so Spirit for me was a foreign word also. But there more I studied human behavior the more I believed that we humans are spiritual creatures who need meaning, purpose, and spirituality just as much as water, food, and oxygen. I started to study existentialism and in particular logotherapy in order to find out just how much humans need spirituality and purpose. One book above all helped me to grasp the importance of spirituality for the human psyche: Viktor Frankl’s Mans search for meaning. Click here to read my book, review.
As a hardcore student of human behavior I believe the difference between success and failure and being a happy or a depressed person lies in the habits we have. Our behavioral patterns and or mental habits determine ultimately who we are and if we are able to overcome the hardships of life and thrive in spite of our circumstances or perish in the face of problems. 
I was unhappy for a long time, and I realized that the way I did things was responsible for my emotional results. So at one point, I started to look for different ways to do things, for new habits and new perspectives on life. I realized that the sum of my behavior was giving me shitty results. So I asked myself what would happen if I did the opposite?
 
In order to find out what the opposite of unhappy and unsuccessful was, I needed to find a group who did things radically different, a group that was thriving and who were happy. So I started to look at high achievers and compared their behavior to my own.
In order to do so, I studied the habits, routines, and tactics of world-class performers, Icons and millionaires. I devoured every book and every Interview I could find that was dealing with this topic. A gold nugget I found,  was Tim Ferris new book „ Tools of Titans“.
The book is based on his Interviews with more than 250 world-class performers including celebrities like Arnold Schwarzenegger, Richard Branson or Jamie Fox. For me a treasure trove of case studies after which I could model my behavior. Click here to check out his podcast.
 
I listened to every Interview he made. And wrote down the mental patterns, habits, and books his guest and Tim Ferris himself recommended.
I listened to over 500 hours(yes I am a weirdo who has no life, please move on x) of interviews and I wrote down everything that was radically different from my behavior and from my way of thinking.

Ferris says that more than 80% of the world-class performers he interviews were using some form of meditative practice.
As a habit thief, this was exactly what I was looking for. After a short research on meditation, it turned out that I, with my belief that meditation was pseudo bullshit, was totally wrong. And that meditation was a necessity in order to be happy. 
 
After learning about the benefits of Meditation(and that is was free) I thought „f*** me! this sound great, count me In“!
But where do I start? At the Time I was reading a book called the “code of the extraordinary mind” from Vizshen Lakhiani, still to this day one of my favorite books.
I was so in love with the book that I began to research the author.
And I discovered that the author was simultaneously the founder of one of the biggest online meditations platforms: Mind Valley.
They specialize in online courses and they have an app similar to headspace and calm: OmvanaThey mostly focus on guided meditations. For me, this was a good starting point.
Basically, all I had to do was to sit on my behind plug my headphones in and listen to 20 min with closed eyes. Hundreds of scientifically proven benefits for sitting lazy 20 min with closed eyes? Now that’s what I call a nice return!
So what is the 6 Phase Mediation…
 
 

What are the 6 Meditation Phases? 

The 6 Phase Meditation is a distillation of hundreds of books on personal growth and is designed to create the best transformation in your state of being in the shortest amount of time.
Basically the 6 Phase guided Meditation is like a Pizza Quattro Stagioni. A best of album, like a greatest hits of meditative practices.
It identified the 6 most important parts of different meditative practices and formed it into one amazing compilation. One of my core beliefs is that I don’t believe in separation of disciplines. I believe one does best by picking the best areas of a theory and creates a new integrated approach that unites all the positive and neglects all the negative facets.

 

Phase 1:  Love and Compassion

This phase is about feeling positively connected to other people and creating a sense of compassion towards them.
You imagine a golden light in your head, and you let it grow until the whole world is covered by your positive energy. As a student of human behavior, I think one of the biggest problems of modern society is our separation from each other. Loneliness kills.
This phase emphasizes that we are all one big organism and that we are not alone and must function together and love and connect in a positive way with each other.
In a time where it has become standard in western systems that people live isolated in sterile apartments, this phase encourages you to reconnect with your tribe and understand that humans need other humans in order to live, be happy and thrive.

Phase 2: Gratitude

Here you are instructed to think of positive events that happened to you in the last 24 hours.
This Phase builds Gratitude. And it is incredibly powerful. In my opinion, one of the biggest causes of depression and unhappiness is a wrongly shifted perspective. People who are unhappy and suffer from chronic pain and depression are more prone to see the negative in the world. There are countless studies who prove this. I think we are not born as positive creatures, but that we are hard-wired to look for danger and things we should avoid in order to make absolutely sure that we survive and avoid discomfort.
 
In modern society where everybody survives this mechanism is causing massive problems and is one of the key drivers of existential crisis.
One of the antidotes to depression is gratitude in my opinion.

Gratitude is a game changer. As someone with who was not happy for a long time himself, I was constantly focused on the things that were going wrong for me, with the world that I was living in, with the people that were around me.
Having Gratitude in my daily routine changed me as a person for the better. Happiness is a habit, a skill that is learnable like any other skill in my opinion.
But in order to develop this skill, one must practice it daily. I believe that our brain is basically a big grey answering machine. If we ask our brain a question it can’t help itself but answer it. One of the differences between happy and unhappy people, in my opinion, lies in the different questions they ask themselves.
Unhappy people often ask themselves about the things that are not right in their life, while happy person tend to have an eye for all the little things that are great in their life.
Gratitude is really a transforming force. Asking yourself in the morning what is great about today, about your life about you even will train your brain to change its perspectives.
Take a moment and stop.
 

  1. Think of 3 things that you can be grateful for in your life
  2. What are 3 things that are great about you?
  3. Search for a little thing in your sight that you can be grateful for

Many patients that I interviewed when asked said that they have nothing to be grateful for. Where in reality there is always something to be grateful for.
Did you wake up today? Great! You did not die today. That`s awesome is it not? Is your family still alive? Sweet! How many human wake up today to a call that they lost someone.
Are all your friend still with you? Amazing!
One of the happiest persons I know is my mother. One of her superpowers is seeing the positive in everything, no matter how small. She is the kind of person who will call you for no reason but to tell you that she found a beautiful stone and how beautiful nature is.
Happiness is much more about perception that it is about actual results.

Phase 3: Forgiveness

In this phase, Lakhiani instructs you to visualize someone who has wronged you. Then you apologize to that person and the other person apologized to you and then you forgive him and vice versa.
Lakhiani says here that we are all one, and that any charge against a person is also a charge against yourself.
Each and every individual in this world has different values and personal borders. It is in my opinion impossible to not step on anyone’s toes. So hurting people is to some extent unavoidable.
We all feel like we got the short end of the stick sometimes, we feel neglected by our loved ones, and more often than not people are just straight assholes.
Being hurt is part of the human condition it seems. Staying hurt, however, is, in my opinion, a decision.
Our brain does almost anything in order to protect us. If a person that we loved wronged and hurt us badly we want to make sure that this never happens to us again. So we develop trust issues and never let people close to us again.
A total logical conclusion and set of actions. This, however, creates more problems, because we start to prefer the safe sweet isolation and shortly find yourself in a spot of loneliness.
Forgiving is the one skill that will solve this problem. And I think there lies a psychological necessity behind forgiveness. People have an enormous capacity to hold grudges for ridiculously long times.
The deeper the pain the less prone are we to hold on. However holding on to pain is exactly that, being in pain, hiding it deep in our inner space.
Forgiveness is cleaning your inner space and throwing out stuff that is outdated. The six-phase meditation is a daily practice to train your forgiveness muscle. You start with small things and get over small issues. This will enable you to forgive the big things also in my opinion.
One of the main struggles of psychology is the art of letting go. The most extreme case of this is abuse in my opinion. Who in a righteous mind might apply forgiveness to extreme situations such as abuse?
Realizing that forgiving person who hurt you is not about them, but about your own harmony helped me to let go of some deepest grudges I held.
And this has resulted in me making peace with my past.

Phase 4: Future Visualization

Here you are asked to imagine your dream Life in the next three years.
What would happen to you if failure was not an option? How will your life look?Your love life? Your health? Your career/business?

This part for me was also a gold nugget.
One of the biggest causes of depression, in my opinion, is the lack of a compelling future. The most depressive people I met where the ones who were in the mindset that the pain would never stop. That the future has nothing to offer for them but pain and failure.
People who forsake the perspective that things might just turn around are prone to suicide and despair in my opinion. Because you internalize that the only way to protect yourself from the pain in the now and the future is to end it all. To kill yourself.
For years I lived a crazy and excessive Life because I never thought that a compelling future was a reality for me. I grew up with 2 amazing but physically sick parents. Since they had a deadline on their lives, I kinda subconsciously thought that I also had one. 
Although we all have a deadline, I don’t believe that for me the mindset of living today like it is your last is a life strategy that results in happiness and fulfillment or even harmony.
Living like today is your last day would result in people just doing tons of cocaine and ordering hookers for lunch. Or maybe that is just me.
Enjoying your every day like it is your last is something different. I think that people in order to be happy need to have at least a perception of a safe, compelling future in order to thrive.

This phase forces you to dream and to dream daily. Maybe you dream of girls and riches, maybe you want to become a millionaire, maybe you want to get that Ph.D. in order to stick it to everybody.
Having wild, compelling dreams really can help you to push through the hardships of life because you realize that although today was maybe shit, your life isn’t and that it is going to get better.
And until now, this phase is a daily reminder of what is possible for me.

Phase 5: Your Perfect Day

You have formed a compelling vision of your future, now what steps do you need to take to let that future become a reality?
Great you have a dream, now its planning time. Every dream needs a strategic plan. Asking yourself every day, what can I do TODAY in order to come one big step closer to my dream.
Designing your days actively towards your dreams, desires and true wants transforms your mindset fast in my opinion. From now on it is only a question of how many days in a row you need to work until you reach that precious milestone that you are shooting for.
Asking yourself daily, what can I do? What help can I get? Who can help me today to come closer to my dream? What resources can i mobilize today in order to make my dream come true? 
This will result in daily progress and with it fulfillment. One thing that I didnt thought would happen here, was that the joy of pursuit might just be comparable to the joy of achievement.
Trying hard to do you has holistic benefits in my opinion. You show yourself that you care about you, about today and about your life This has helped me even to weaken some of my bad habits, such as getting completely shit faced on Fridays.
Because saying yes to getting smashed on Friday was also saying no to working on my dream on Saturday. It became a direct sabotage of my progress, and I linked less and less pleasant to it.
So whatever task, project, dream, goal, vision that you have that you should have started a long time ago, go and start it now. It might be more achievable than you think.

Phase 6: The Blessing

Here Lakhiani tells you that you have a higher power and that you should connect to the divine. You imagine a white light that hits your skull and fills you with life and wonderful energy.
I don’t want to go all mystical on your behind, but I believe that spirituality is a necessity for humans.
This phase gives you the feeling that the entire universe has your back and that all your dreams will come true. Even if unfounded, the idea that one has momentum is powerful.
Again emphasizing our oneness for me results in a harmonious life strategy. Adding value to other, going through life and contributing and listening to each other and encouraging others to believe in themselves will ultimately return in you getting back what you have given.
And taking pride in the amount of effort, re

Call to Action

Although I have tried numerous Meditative practices. I still do the 6 Phase Meditation every morning. And I have amazing days ever since.
So my call to Action to you: click here
And do the six phase meditation once! 20 Minutes of your Life, 76 Benefits. This is a pretty badass return if you ask me.

The Five Minute Journal

Why Journaling?

As a student of human behavior, I am particularly interested in what behavior results in happiness, and what behavior creates stress and worry.

One of the focal points of my interest right now is to find tools, tricks and ways to guide our mind away from stress and anxiety and towards fulfillment and happiness.
But how do you direct your brain? What habits create worry and what habits help us to guide our mind towards gratitude and joy.
What habits create worry?
I got this part covered. Since I never shied away from failure and fucking up in a big way I by accident made my Ph.D. in how to feel like horsecrap.
My monkey mind was non stop in problem-solving mode. Always stressed, super imbalances and totally not happy. This provided me with a manual on how to feel worried all the time. This in combination with me being a psychology student put me In a perfect position to deconstruct unhappiness and chronic stress.
After spending years on finding patterns, mindsets, and behaviors that resulted in worry, anxiety, and depression I got curious about what the opposite would look like.
What was the opposite of worry? Of anxiety? I needed a group of people who did things radically different. So I looked at the other side of the spectrum of happiness. Of people who were kicking ass in life.

What were the habits, routines, and patterns of pro athletes, stars, millionaires or even billionaires? Are there commonalities to be found among them? 

I was curious what would happen if one straight copied the behaviors of successful people. What would happen to a person who was prone to despair and depression if that person started to emulate habits of high achievers and happy people?
Would this result in them getting better results and more happiness eventually?

Sounds easy right? Wel,l there was one problem.

As a broke psychology student, I didn’t know many millionaires.

This is when I stumbled over the Tim Ferris Podcast.

Tim Ferris is a silicon valley Tech entrepreneur who made it his life mission to deconstruct world-class performers from eclectic areas (investing, sports, business etc).

He does so by interviewing high performers in order to extract the tactics, tools, routines, and habits of the super successful.

This means that he asks them about their favorite books, their morning routines, exercise habits their time- management tricks and so on.

His Guests include people like Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jamie Foxx, Edward Norton, Tony Robbins, Peter Thiel. 

This show for me was A good nugget. And as you can hear I am a big fanboy of this show. Since at that time I didnt have enough leverage to interview successful case studies myself this show was the next best thing for me.

One habit popped up over and over: journaling.

Apparently, the perfect antidote to stress and worrying is to take our thoughts and put them on paper. There seems to be something highly therapeutic about guiding our brain by asking the right kind of questions. Our brain is, in my opinion, a big, grey answering machine. It can not help itself but answer the questions we ask ourselves.

But I was not into writing at that point, where do I start when I want to implant the habit of journaling?

Tim Ferris pitches a product that is exactly that; journaling for starters.

The Five Minute Journal. 

 

So what is the Five-minute Journal…

Morning Routine

The first part of the Five Minute Journal is about your Morning Routine. The first few minutes after waking up are crucial.

“If you win the Morning, you win the day” Tim Ferris

You have the chance here to prime yourself positively for the rest of the day.

Best way to finetune your brain is by asking quesitons.
The quality of questions that we ask ourselves on a constant basis decides about our mental state more than anything else. Click here to read my article about how to ask questions better.
 
 

The morning section asks you 3 questions.

  1. What are you grateful for …
  2. What would make today great …
  3. Daily affirmations, I am …

 
 
 

Gratitude

Starting your day with gratitude is a habit that I heard many high achievers mention. I believe that happiness is a habit as well. Click here to read my article about gratitude and meditation.

One thing that unhappy people have in common is, in my opinion, their inability to see the small good things that are in our life. I believe that humans are first and foremost designed to survive. Happiness is secondary. Our brain is hard-wired to look for danger, and in my opinion, it does not give a fuck about happiness. We can hack this by asking our brain questions consciously in order to guide our emotions. It is very hard for our brain to separate words, thoughts, and posture from emotions. When we jump around and think about the awesomeness of life, it is much harder to hold depressing thoughts and vice versa.

Starting to ask yourself what you can be grateful for, emphasizes that there are amazing things around you. This can be as big as having a loving family or as small as seeing a bird that you like or feeling a cold refreshing breath on your face.

Happiness is a learnable skill. Gratitude is training that very skill, by giving us conscious control over our perspective. I believe achievement is overrated and that it is really about how we experience, and perceive achievement and our pursuit of the things that matter to us.

“The first thing I do every morning is make my bed. It gives me closure from the night before, and starts my day off in a clean, tidy and organise

d way. The second t

hing I do is an affirmation of gratitude, whether it’s for my immediate fortunate surroundings [such as] family, friends, health, home or gratitude for unknown people and unforeseen situations that come my way. Every person that enters your life and everyt

hing that happens to you has some greater meaning. It’s up to you to dig deep and ask why.“

 

—Angela Mavridis, founder and CEO of Tribal Foods, a company that produces organic grass-fed protein patties.

What can I do to make today great?

In this part, you basically force yourself to think about what you need to do today in order to feel like crap in the evening. What tasks have I been postponing that will cause me guilt today when I am in bed?
What do I have to do in order to feel tonight that this was a nice, productive, fruitfull exiting day? This means for everybody something else. For me, it is here about balance. I need to have the feeling that I got holistically better. This can mean for me going to the gym and lift heavy, or go to the library and work on my dream.
It also means doing something that is fun. Have an exciting date, make the life of someone around you a little bit better. It also means doing something just for you. Maybe watch a movie, get a fly new shirt. The idea behind this questions is to feel out what your idea is of a perfect day and how you can design a life that aligns with your true values and wishes.
 

Daily Affirmation

In here you write down how you are. What are you feeling, what is going on inside your brain? In my opinion becoming an expert on your inner life is a necessity when you want to achieve anything and if you want to have the chance of living happily.
Beeing unclear about why you do things, will result in you doing completely the wrong things. For example, if you feel undervalued, and un appreciated you might take completely different career choices.
Maybe you become a doctor in order to become validated by society and not because it is your heart’s desire, instead of doing pottery. The point I am trying to make is that by listening closely to your emotions you are able to avoid habits and decisions that are bad for you.
Not listening to your pain and your needs makes you very vulnerable to bad habits such as alcoholism, avoidance, or distraction. If you face your true feelings however you can maneuver your behavior consciously and you can make conscious decisions for your life.
Also, a great advantage is that you can look back in your journal to darker, or happier times and reread what you did differently back then. Either to realize what new behaviors are not good for you or to see what you have stopped that was giving you happiness and fulfillment.

Night routine

What was awesome today?

The night section asks you to reflect on 3 things that were amazing that day.

Again life is not so much about actual results, but about perception in my opinion. The amount of what we have and what we are is less decisive than in what way we evaluate our pursuits. Forcing yourself to write down 3 things changes your perception of your life, each day, a little bit.
In our society, we are motivated to only pride ourself with big achievements. But celebrating even the tiniest of our successes results in my opinion in much more happiness.
Often people with depression think they have nothing good in their life. Here you are forced to write down three things. This can be as small as that you saw a nice butterfly or even that you made your bed. Click here to read my article why making your bed results in more happiness.
Furthermore, you are asked about something that you could have done better.

Two things that The Five Minute Journal helps you to do in the evening.

  1. You end your day with positivity.
  2. You evaluate your day

Often we are caught in the business of life, without really moving forward. The feeling of being stuck, of not moving is a sure ingredient of worry and unhappiness.
This part of the five-minute journal forces you to think about the positive things that life gave you this day, and also lets you think about ways to make it better, more richer, more fun and more productive.
For me this part was important. I think I am naturally a very motivated person. That’s great. But also very dangerous. Because when I don’t keep it in check I work for months in the wrong direction, inefficiently without a plan or strategy. Asking myself every night, how I could have given more, planned better, enjoyed more fully lets me go to the bed with the feeling that tomorrow is going to be even better.

Final Note

I am always on the hunt for behavior changing products. I believe that this product is really great when you want to start to journal. Later you can create your own journal with questions that are more fitting to your personal unique values.
But for starters this is a beautiful product that will train your brain to become more aware of all the little beautiful things in your life.
I have been journaling for about 2 years right now, and I can honestly say that this habit has made me happier and more productive. And if you don’t want to spend the money, just create a journal for yourself. But the simplicity, and that it only takes 5 minutes makes it perfect to implant it into your schedule, and then later build more positive rituals on top of it.
 

Call to Action

  1. If you want to check out to check out the five-minute journal on Amazon? Click here!
  2. Write down 3 things that you can be grateful for
  3. Write down 3 things that are amazing about you
  4. What is one area in your life that is still holding you back?

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