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…
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.
“Man, basketball helps me to preserve my sanity. The game is just so pure, all you need is a ball. That’s it, you don’t even need a hoop or other people, you can just practice your game on the street. I’m in Rome now for 3 years, I found a job at a restaurant where they didn’t mind that I had no papers. I used to crack jokes with the customers and the tip was so great that I started to send money over to my family in Africa. I was happy, than the pandemic hit and everything changed. From one day to another all restaurants closed down and I lost my job like that.
BAM. Sometimes life punches you in the mouth you know. It took me a while to punch back.
I was devasted, I had nobody to turn to, the government wouldn’t take care of illegal immigrants, so I had to take the last 40 euros I had and buy a tent. The worst thing about living in those tent cities is that you can’t relax anymore, all that separates you from criminals and drug addicts is a tiny little fabric.
What helped me through that time was that I had my basketball with me in my tent. I even named that fucker, his name is billy the ball haha
It sounds ridiculous, but that ball helped me to overcome that period of my life. The value of some things can only be discovered when everything else is taken away from you.
The restaurants are open again and I have my old life back.
I’ve learned some things about myself while I was living in that tent, one of those things was that I am stronger than I thought. People offered me shady ways to make money but I did not betray my god or my family. Not even for a day.”
This hero is, in fact, a real hero.
A South African freedom fighter who was imprisoned due to his political involvement with the ANC (the military wing of the African national congress that fought against apartheid in South Africa together with Nelson Mandela). I talked with him about sacrifice, willpower, and his take on depression.
“My first involvement with the ANC got me expelled from school. At that time I knew that being a freedom fighter will come with a price. Here on Robben Island, I was imprisoned together with all the other political leaders of the resistance against apartheid. Right over there Nelson Mandela planted his tomatoes and hid his manuscript for his autobiography. The guards found it anyway and burned it. So he lost 4 years of work.
This place was known to us as the university, it was not only a prison but a place where we learned from each other. A place full of leaders and fighters. We saw this prison as a continuation of our struggle for freedom and against the apartheid regime… The worst thing for me was that the guards used systematic starvation in order to keep us down. They were afraid of our mind, and a hungry mind can’t revolt. The worst thing was that they took away the letters that our children and women wrote to us. “
Daniel: What was the difference between people who were falling into despair, depression, and suicide and between those who kept their mind strong?
“If we saw someone be depressed or isolating themselves, we, as a community choose teams of 3-4 people to go and talk to the person who was in pain. We listened to his problems and tried to give him support, unity, and solutions.
Daniel: Like a depression watch?” “Yes, we knew that only together we can win the fight. Community is the key. Besides that, in order to not succumb to depression, we tried to stay busy. Read, exercise, talk with each other, and play rugby”.
One of my favorite encounters of my last journey through Europe was with the rather “different” gentleman that you see on this picture.
Even though he was homeless and obviously in a world of hurt he smiled and told me that he has faith that things will soon get better for him.
It always amazes me how unbelievable resilient people can be under unbearable conditions.
In the conversation with this man I learned that he lost his job, his family, his money, his health, and his friends.
What he did not lose however was his ability to smile.
How this individual managed to preserve hope and optimism is beyond my understanding of the human psyche.
Happiness isn’t produced by having everything handed to you on a silver platter, it is produced by surviving one storm after another until you outgrow your current catastrophe.
There is more to you than meets the eye, don’t forget to occasionally show the world your middle finger and act in spite of your suffering.