Here you find stories and life advice that I collected from special humans while I tried to answer the question: What constitutes a good life?
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…
I spent two amazing years in the Philippines, living my dream of becoming a surfer. I fell in love with the country’s natural beauty, its friendly people, and the thrill of the sport.
But one day, everything changed. A massive typhoon hit the Philippines, and it was like nothing I had ever seen before. The winds were so strong, they ripped roofs off houses and sent debris flying through the air. The rain was pouring down in sheets, and the whole world felt like it was coming apart.
The storm destroyed everything in its path, leaving behind a trail of devastation. I saw people die, others get injured, and even the tallest and toughest men crying like babies. It was like the typhoon had taken everything from us, and we were left with nothing.
After the storm passed, I found myself stuck in a small city with my girlfriend. There was no electricity, no food, no wifi, and no police to protect us. We were in a desperate situation, and we were eager to get off the island.
But getting off the island was not easy. Only the injured were allowed to leave, and we were not among them. It was a tough situation, and we felt helpless and alone.
However, fate smiled upon us. My friend got injured, and she was granted a seat on the plane. She told the authorities that I was her cousin, and I was allowed to leave with her. We managed to escape to Manila, from where we were able to fly back to China.
The devastation that I saw during that time was something that will stay with me forever. It was traumatic, and it took me a while to process what had happened. But with the help of my best friend, I was able to find redemption.
She listened to me, comforted me, and helped me process my emotions. I realized that a friend is a sturdy shelter in the storms of life. Someone who will be there for you, no matter what. Someone who will stand by your side and help you weather any storm.
The experience also taught me that tomorrow is never promised. We never know what the future holds, and we should make the most of every moment. Life can be unpredictable, and we should cherish the people and things that matter most to us.
In the end, the typhoon taught me some valuable lessons. It was a difficult and traumatic experience, but I emerged stronger and more grateful for the people in my life. I learned that even in the darkest moments, there is hope, and that with the help of a friend, we can overcome anything.
“I’ve had many beautiful days in my life, one of the most spectacular ones was the one where I gave birth to my son, another one was the day where my current boyfriend appeared. After two years of not seeing or hearing from each other, he just stood in front of me…
We ran into each other 8 years ago and we were friends more or less … he always wanted to go out with me but I wasn’t in the right state of mind at the time and I always said ‘no’ when he wanted to have a rendezvous with me. But I just didn’t see him ‘like that’.
Our ways separated, without any particular reason, he was out of my life. For two years we didn’t hear from each other.
One day, out of the blue, he visited me at work and stood in front of me. It hit me at that very moment and I know that he was ‘the one’!
I couldn’t even say ‘hello‘ but instead said ‘and, where is my Mezcal?’. (The two of us have a common love for Mezcal).”
We both laughed, the rest is history.”
One of the lessons that I took from this touching story is that our journey towards love isn’t only external, but also internal. To love is to decide to be couragous enough to look within yourself in order to destroy the barriers that you built against it.
Do me a favor; If you run into somebody and they make you feel, be brave enough to let them ok?
And if you find somemone like that, don’t let them go, ever. Even if it is difficult, espeically then, don’t give up and when others start to tell to do so, don’t.
True love is eternal, it only dies if the lover refuses to learn how to replenish its source.
Stay romantic, stay foolish.
“One of the pieces of advice I like to give is to have a service-orientated mindset. When you help someone else, you really help yourself. There is nothing that is as rewarding as doing something good for someone who needs it. Another piece of advice I have for the world is this; You can always reinvent yourself. Who you are is a decision, if you don’t like yourself or your life know that you can decide right now to be someone different tomorrow. Young people should know that even if they are in hell, they are only one decision away from paradise.”
I met this human while I was traveling with my friends through Switzerland.
Switzerland is a special country for me, not only because it is famous for having the best chocolate, but because my friend @mirowittwer lives there.
He was the reason why my friends traveled to Switzerland, to celebrate his birthday.
Before we started to party in the mountains, I met the guy in the picture who was so kind to share with us some wisdom.
It wasn’t however what he said that educated me, but what he did.
After having a couple of beers too much, my travel companion and I realized that we had to get back to Zurich in order to get our flight back to Germany.
We asked around and realized that there were no busses around and we started to playfully joke about the fact that we would probably have to sleep in the barn of the farm where the party was at.
The guy in the picture noticed that and kindly offered us to drive to the next train station.
The ride was 40 minutes long and by the end of I offered to compensate him for his efforts.
After attempting to put a Euro bill in his hand he politely kicked me out of the car, winked at me, and told me to hurry to get my train.
We managed to get to our hotel and we did not have to sleep on the hay.
A trivial situation to the untrained eye, to me a reminder that life isn’t about getting, it’s about giving.
“The younger generation these days come into the ancient temples only to take pictures with their cell-phone, but the larger meaning of the old mosques eludes them. These places were built for us by our ancestors in order to help us to think about ways in which we can improve ourselves and become better Muslims. The new generation has lost touch with its old one, they care more about money and fame. This degeneration of values is dangerous, they forgot that the things that matter most are God, family, and righteousness. I’m worried… how can a generation who has forgotten its past have a future?”
I’ve met this gentleman in the famous mosque Hage Sofia while I was collecting stories in Istanbul with my friend and photographer @onursryz.
One of the reasons why I traveled to Istanbul was because I wanted to learn more about the Islamic world.
Growing up in the west, all I ever heard in the media about the Islamic world was about how “evil” it was and how primitive the Muslims were who lived in it.
However, it was always difficult for me to buy completely into the idea of “them” as the “bad guys” and “us” as the “good ones”.
… After all, I had a father who was born into Islam and a mother who was born into Christianity… so I always felt torn between worlds, not fully belonging to either one of them.
And with one foot in the orient and one in the west, I was always oscillating between “good” and “bad” guy, depending on who I talked to.
Teachers like the one in the picture above, however, helped me to bridge my two heritages and realize that we all have more in common with each other than we think…
My message to you today is simple;
Don’t allow the media to form your beliefs about good and evil for you, instead, go into the world by yourself so that you can find your own truth.
“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
“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
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
“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.
Get my guide to tap into the power of habit formation for free.