“When my grandmother was a teenager she brought home a guy and introduced him to her family. My great uncle looked at the two of them carefully and said ‘He is the one, this is the guy, the two of you are going to be happy with each other one day’.
Life had different plans though… Grandmother married grandfather who after ten years of marriage, left her and the children behind for someone younger.
Once the long divorce process was over Grandmother picked herself up and went to a career training program and in that meeting was someone she knew… Someone from way back… In that meeting, she saw her teenage crush who coincidently was also divorced, who also was taking care of his two kids. They were together from the moment that meeting was over and they could only be separated again by death years and years later”
Coincidentally, after I’ve heard this pearl of wisdom, something came into my eye, and I got wet eyes…(I would never cry just so you know 👀) and I felt a great sense of relief, faith, and peace in my heart.
Stories like these strengthen my conviction that it’s impossible to make sense of the chaotic pile of puzzle pieces that you have in front of you right now.
In the end, though, all your trials, heartaches, failures, and other puzzle pieces are going to fit perfectly into each other they are going to form one masterpiece of a picture.
If you are still alone, let me tell you this; Your person is on a journey towards you right now.
Whether this journey is external or internal doesn’t matter.
Whether your person is someone from the other side of the world or someone you already met doesn’t matter.
What matters is that you believe that if you keep your heart open and you continue to become who you are that you eventually will discover or rediscover your favorite person in the world.
Daniel: “What’s your advice to people who want to be happier?’
Hero: “Don’t worry be happy”
Daniel: “That’s it?”
Hero: “No, I mean the song, from Bobby McFerrin. Whenever I have a dog shit day I just sing;
oooh, ooooh oo-ooh ooh oo-ooh be happy
oooh, ooooh oo-ooh ooh oo-ooh don’t worry, be happy.”
Daniel: “Hahaha and this works for you?”
Hero: “Like a charm! Try it!”
Daniel: “oooh, ooooh oo-ooh ooh oo-ooh be happy
oooh, ooooh oo-ooh ooh oo-ooh don’t worry, be happy.”
Hero: “works right?!”
Daniel: “Hahaha indeed it does!”
I approached this hero while I was collecting pearls of wisdom on the red light district in Hamburg.
I saw him whistle in front of a kebab store and when I walked past him he greeted me and said: ” Beautiful day isn’t it?”
This one really cracked me up because he was obviously joking.
Meeting this hero having a great day despite having very little strengthened my belief that humor heals.
Laughter is the ultimate weapon against desperation because it consists of anti-depressive qualities such as truth, acceptance, and courage.
To ridicule yourself and your flaws and to laugh at your own misfortune is a vote against seriousness and a declaration that life is livable under all circumstances.
So, next time you have a bad day, you might want to consider calling that one friend who always makes you laugh, crack a joke at your own costs, or sing and dance along to a stupid song of your choosing.
Stay giggly my friends.
📸 Jeffrey Pegas
“Like you Daniel, I also quit drinking. What really helped me was to start meditation. It becomes quite hard to pour down whiskey in your throat if you’ve truly grasped your self-worth wouldn’t you agree?!
I guess this is something that many of the addicts who come here to eat don’t understand, they forgot how valuable their spirit really is.
But I see it, and I treat and talk to anybody as if they are important people because to me they are.
In my 30+ years of having this hot dog shop in the heart of the red-light district of Hamburg, I’ve talked to thousands of individuals all unalike from each other yet still the same in a bizarre way.
Whether is a millionaire or a homeless person, a drug dealer or an addict, a prostitute or a punter, a domina or a manager, here, everybody pays the same prices and gets welcomed with a smile and an invitation to talk”.
I’ve collected this pearl of wisdom on the Reeperbahn in Hamburg, a street in which I’ve spent a big part of my youth intoxicated while I was looking for trouble( and oh boy, did I find a lot of that there).
I must admit that it’s been a while that I’ve met such a curious and enthusiastic humanist.
He introduced himself to me as a guy who sells hot dogs, but to me, it seems that he did so much more.
His ability to truly be with people and make them feel seen and heard is a rare and curative character trait, and I thoroughly enjoyed and learned a lot about listening from hearing his story.
📸 by Jeffrey Pegas
“Coming to Germany in 2006 was a great relief for me. The moment my plane landed I felt as if things were going to get easier from now on, turns out that prediction couldn’t have been further from the truth.
I still remember how I walked enthusiastically into the Davidswache (police station) at the Reeperbahn and asked them if they could find me a job. They laughed and told me that jobs don’t grow on trees over here and that I have to find one myself.
So, it’s fair to say that I was a bit foolish back then!
Reality set in quickly after that…
In Nigeria when your rent is a bit late you can just talk to the landlord(who is your friend) and tell him it’s coming a bit later, here your ass is on the streets if you don’t pay.
The human element is missing here, you don’t really deal with people, you deal with papers and laws.
Once I learned that no help was coming, I needed to find a solution.
Back at my home, I was known as Electro Jon because I was the guy who could fix things.
So one day I just started to knock at the door of a small electronic store in the Sternschanze and told the owner that I can fix TVs for him.
That was my first job here.
Over the years I’ve learned that here you don’t fix things anymore, you just throw them away, so I started to buy broken tech from the internet, repaired it, and sold it to people at a fair price.
Eventually, I created a business out of fixing broken things and now I have my own store and I can do what I love and provide for my family”
While collecting this pearl of wisdom I’ve felt a strong philosophical kinship towards this special individual.
As a clinician, my career also revolves around the understanding that something that was repaired is more and not less beautiful because of its former brokenness.
The most beautiful things in life are forged and tested in fire, and fire leaves scars.
Do not detest those scars, embrace them.
And see the beauty in collecting the potsherds and put them together until your love and your life are a perfectly imperfect masterpiece.
📸 Jeffrey Pegas
Last year, while wandering through the district of Ubud, I met a Balinese priest who happened to deliver a prophecy to me.
Just outside of Ubud is the Gunung Lebah, a beautiful path that gave me a gorgeous overlook of the valleys of the lesser developed areas of Ubud.
At the end of that path, I met the priest.
Traveling the world and learning from unexpected teachers played a huge rule in my recovery from depression, so I asked the priest if I could interview him for my movie.
So I sat next to him and asked what it is that he does with his life.
He said ‘ Same as you Daniel, I talk to people and carry their pain for them‘.
I learned that Priests in Indonesia often do the same things that mental health professionals do in Germany, they help people to get their lives together.
There was a big difference though, he didn’t accept any kind of payment from his “clients”.
As a westerner, this was quite odd for me.
While my current life’s chapter is about pushing my way to the top, he was trying to abandon status and power entirely.
After chatting for a while he looked at me, touched my shoulder, and told me ‘ Daniel, I’m afraid that you’ll have to heal a million people until you heal yourself‘.
That stuck with me…
Much of my current entrepreneurial pursuits revolve around the compulsion of justifying my existence to others…
Showing everybody that “I’m enough”.
This man, on the other hand, wasn’t concerned with external or internal judgments, he didn’t try to become anything, he was busy with being who he was.
This got me thinking…
Is the term self-actualization a contradiction in itself?
Maybe it isn’t the great man who conquers the world who actualizes himself but the man who forgets all about himself and who gives his life to the person he loves or to the ones who need him.
It’s little encounters like that, that humble me because I know that I am like anybody else, a tiny light in the global collective of life.
And who knows, maybe that’s all I ever have to be…
“This isn’t just a dog, this is Heidi my best friend in the whole world.
Two years ago I reunited with a fellow Englishmen and he took a selfie with me and after I saw the picture I was in shock about what I looked like.
I couldn’t believe that the gloomy eyed rotten Ghul next to my friend was me… this was the first time that I realized what addiction has transformed me into.
That was a wake-up moment for me and I knew that If I didn’t change myself I would drink myself out of existence.
It was difficult though, I’m a punk from fcking Manchester, drinking is bloody second nature for us you know… so it’s fair to say that I had no idea how I could quit by myself.
Two weeks after that epiphany a guy I knew asked me if I could take care of his dog because he had to leave town ‘temporarily’, I owed him a favor so I said yes.
I haven’t seen him since… this is how I got Heidi.
Heidi is a special dog who wants the best for me, everytime I pick up a bottle, she starts to growl and gives me the death stare haha.
To this day I believe that Heide is a gift from God that was sent to rescue me from the depths of the hell that I constructed around myself.
I have been sober for quite a while now and my life is much better because of it, of course, I’m still a work in progress, but then again, who isn’t right haha?”
I talked to this hero three days ago and I’m glowing ever since.
Learning about Heidi confirmed a discovery that I made on my own journey towards sobriety: Responsibility is curative.
People rarely defeat addiction for themselves, it’s almost always for something else.
Whether this “something” is a partner, a child, a job, or even a dog isn’t important, what matters is that you have something that is worth fighting and suffering for.
If you can only take one lesson from this story with you let it be this: If your why is bigger than yourself, you can overcome anything.
📸 by Jeffrey Pegas
One of the most powerful human encounters of my last year I met the rice farmer Wayan while I was shooting my first youtube movie – Remission.
Sometimes farmers dispose of their straws by burning them down in order to make room for the next seeding in the following spring.
I found that principle tremendously interesting and while I felt the blazing heat of the fire and inhaled the pitch-black hay smoke I asked myself a very straight forward question that I would like to ask you today also:
What part of yourself or your life do you need to let go of in order to make room for your next spiritual blossom?
One of the most glaring commonalities among the most miserable souls I ever encountered was that they all shared an inability to divorce themselves from the worst of them.
If you are not where you would like to be in life it could be because you are shying away from abandoning what drags you down.
This “drag” could be other people, it could an old habit that isn’t serving you anymore, maybe it’s a belief that is outdated or you are aiming at something that isn’t good for you anymore.
Occasionally investigating the degree to which you are in love with your own insufficiencies and faults can save your life and the life of the people who you are surrounded by.
Take a good look in the mirror tonight and meditate on the question: How am I currently the architect of my own misfortune?
One of the most memorable encounters of my previous travel adventures was when I ran into a tangerine farmer near Tamblingan.
He showed me how to pick fruits properly and by the end of it I wanted to compensate him for the tangerines that I ate; he didn’t want to have any part of it and gently responded “I’m good, I got what I need”.
This wasn’t the response that I anticipated after all – everybody loves an extra buck for their efforts, right?
Well, he didn’t.
Subconsciously I entered the conversation with a note of self-imposed superiority and arrogance because I knew that I had more money than this fellow, looking back at it, it was me who was broke in comparison to him.
My currents savings allow me to not work for another year or two max, this guy on the other side does not have to work a normal job ever again in his life because he can live off the land he owns.
Freedom of spirit does not ensue out of having more but out of wanting less.
It is the obsession with possession, more than any other compulsion, that prevents us from living authentically.
Simplifying your life will help you to reduce the complexity of your struggles by eliminating your needless wants.
Antoine De St. Exupery once said that people who travel light often travel happily, this is both true for vagabonding as it is for living.
Travel light my friend.
I interviewed this beautiful woman in Capetown.
She was selling magazines every day, in the same spot right in front of my Air Bnb on Kloof Street.
I walked right past her for 3 days.
She always had a look on her face that was warm, embracing but also prideful.
And every time we greeted each other, she just smiled at me and nodded.
I was a total stranger in Capetown, but this little encounter always felt to me like a small dose of home.
I knew somebody, and that somebody also knew me.
So on day 4, I tried to give her some charity money. She rejected it. This surprised me, and I felt that I offended her.
So I sat down and we talked briefly.
She said, “I’m not a beggar, I’m an entrepreneur!”
She then went on and pitched me the magazine until I bought it.
What fascinated me about this hero, was that she changed her own identity label — and protected it by refusing to take money from me for nothing.
Life comes down to what labels we give ourselves, choose your narrative wisely my friends.
“One example of my mother’s extreme parsimony was that every time grandfather brought home a big piece of meat, she would cut it and saved one half of it for another day.
This drove my grandfather Abdul nuts, he often said that tomorrow isn’t promised and that the time to celebrate life is always right now.
One day, when things weren’t going so great for us financially because of the war, my mother made chicken feet soup for us that tasted like ass.
My grandfather came home, saw what we were eating, and was infuriated by it. He gave my mother a vicious look and left the apartment in anger and came back hours later with a gigantic sack of red lobsters.
After grandfather cooked the crustaceans, each of the kids received multiple lobsters to feast upon.
It was a beautiful mess.
Even though we ate the lobsters of newspapers, for as we didn’t have enough plates, we all felt a sense of somebodyness on that day.
What stuck with me most however wasn’t the marvelous taste of that dinner, it was the aura of security and faith that my grandfather Abdul radiated on that day.
Yes, it was his last money, but the look on his face told another story, it gave all of us to understand that were are protected and that our home was a place of love and togetherness.
A good home.”
It was moments like these that taught me that I’m deserving of the good this world has to offer and that a true man provides for the ones he loves and embodies extreme integrity for as he can count on him and so can everybody else.
This is why we occasionally have to spoil ourselves with lobster or a good cigar son, not because of taste, but because we are reminding ourselves that we are saying yes to life, no to scarcity thinking and that we can always bet on ourselves to be there for us tomorrow. “
It was important for me to share this intimate story of my great grandfather Abdul that my father Elias told me yesterday because I want you to internalize three words that prolonged the life of my father and equipped me with perseverance:
This is it.
All you have is right now, so make every moment your personal masterpiece.