Good Fortune, Bad Timing

Life doesn’t ask you whether it’s a good time to halve your income, send you a case of back pain, or reveal that your brother has lost his job and needs support. Sometimes, all three might happen at once. Ironically, we’re often well-prepared for more bad news. We may whine and say, “Why me? Why me again?” but since we’re already dealing with one crisis, a second one might just faze us a little less. “Oh well, guess I’ll figure this out, too.”

We half-expect bad fortune to be ill-timed because, well, that’s what bad luck is all about. With good fortune, however, we can have a much tougher time. We’re skeptical of lucky breaks in general, let alone multiple of them occurring in our lives at once. But if we don’t believe we deserve some good luck — and we hardly ever do — we might outright refuse to accept it or, at the very least, talk it down into our current, acceptable level of misery.

“I don’t deserve this.” “This will never last.” “Life is being too good to me.” But good fortune, too, cannot be timed. You must accept and savor it whenever it comes. Sometimes, you’ll find a $50 dollar bill on your way home from a bad day at work. Sometimes, your job search may go nowhere for months, but in the meantime, love will find you. Don’t treat these blessings as glitches in the Matrix. Recognize them for what they are: a stroke of luck at an odd time.

Perhaps, good fortune at a bad time is not meant to remind you of your challenging situation. Maybe, it is simply a reminder that better times are to come again. An auspicious sign that you’re on your way up instead of down — and even if it wasn’t, wouldn’t you much rather interpret it that way?

Choose optimism regardless of what fate delivers in the mail, and then go and apply yourself to it. Sooner or later, your world will lighten up again — and it won’t require any lucky breaks at all.

The Hairdryer Lesson

On my 33rd birthday, I learned that even when your hair is dry, you can still use a hairdryer to somewhat whip it into shape. What an obvious lesson, right? But that’s how it goes. One day you walk into the bathroom, don’t feel like completely washing your hair, and since the hairdryer is conveniently plugged in already, boom, one and one finally come together to make two.

It took me twelve thousand and forty-five days to learn this extremely simple, obvious, everyday lesson — and that is the point: No one knows everything, and no matter how much trite, advanced, or profound insight you’ve accumulated, there is always more of every category to obtain.

Stay humble, keep an open mind, and never stop looking for new ideas to update the old. What’s clear to you can be subtle for others, and either one is worth picking up with excitement instead of judgement when you find it — even if it’s in a place you’ve visited a thousand times before, like your bathroom mirror.


In 2016, after being nominated three times and not winning, Leonardo DiCaprio finally won the Oscar for Best Actor. Imagine if, right in that moment, some random dude walked up to the stage, grabbed the microphone out of Leo’s hand, and said: “Thank you all! Actually, it was me acting in every one of his movies all along.” Worse, Leo would just nod and say, “It’s true! He’s my ghostactor. Couldn’t have done it without him!” Then, roaring applause, and the two walk off stage. What the hell just happened?

What is unthinkable in sports, acting, or the world of business is an everyday occurrence when it comes to writing. Gary Vaynerchuk has “written” 5 New York Times Bestsellers. But actually, he’s written none of them. Donald Trump didn’t write The Art of the Deal. Tony Schwartz did.

But even if it’s not plainly obvious that the person on the cover couldn’t write a decent page to save their life, ghostwriting is so common in industry magazines, on company blogs, and now thanks to AI even on personal accounts all over the web, that one can’t help but wonder: How have we arrived at a world where 20%, 30%, 50% of what we read was not written by the person who’s name appears at the top, and not only are we cool with it, we don’t actually care at all?

If you’re the kind of person who demands that other people earn their stripes before you trust them, don’t suspend that principle when reading books, listening to rap songs, or browsing the news on the internet. Ask to get what you pay for, and don’t let the people claiming to have done somebody else’s work get away scot-free.

Part-Time Dreamer

Every Monday, this blonde-haired kid from New Jersey walks into some company building, sits down at his desk, and does boring accounting stuff for eight hours. Then, he does it again on Tuesday. And on Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday.

But when he goes home to his parents’ house, where he has lived well into his 20s, CoolTrainerRyan can walk down the stairs into his mom’s basement, turn on the lights, and look at a Pokémon card collection worth millions of dollars.

During daylight hours, he is Ryan from accounting. But every night, he opens a few hundred dollars worth of Pokémon boosters for his almost 100,000 subscribers. He curses a lot. He only cares about chase cards. And he never artificially hypes up bad pulls. Ryan is 100% himself, and whether it’s on his channel, in interviews, or as a guest in another, much more famous Youtuber’s video, he never apologizes for it.

Ryan has earned that freedom day by day, income statement by income statement, spreadsheet by spreadsheet. He worked, earned money, and reinvested it into something he understood and believed in. He did it without fanfare. Without the hype of, “Look at me, I’m quitting my job to be an entrepreneur!” Just a young kid, working a regular job, with a hobby he pursued relentlessly until, eventually, it kinda worked out.

I chose a different path, but I still remember the magic of leaving the office without a care in the world. “What gives? All our problems will still be here tomorrow. Now, let me do whatever the hell I want.” Often, this little bit of freedom on the side is all the magic you need, and sometimes, it can even be a faster way to the career balance you seek than grinding your teeth into the same problem 24/7.

Don’t underestimate the power of being a part-time dreamer. We can’t all have million-dollar collections, but we can all be as authentically cool as trainer Ryan — and perhaps, regardless of what schedule we do it on, that is enough.

You Are Not a Candle

When you put a snuffer over a candle, the flame loses access to oxygen and dies. Sometimes, life can feel the same. A metal dome seems to descend all around you, and suddenly, you’re in the dark.

The dome could be your company trying to bully you out. It could be a coworker continuously making snide remarks. Maybe it’s a failed pregnancy, a lackluster product launch, or a patron pulling out of your vernissage at the last minute.

Whatever its exact shape or material, the dome’s arrival will shake your confidence. It will make you feel isolated. You will doubt your skills, character traits, perhaps even your values. “What if I actually don’t belong here? Do I deserve this setback?”

No, you don’t. You’re exactly where you’re meant to be — you just need to remember that you’re not a candle. You can do something even the most powerful fire can’t do: supply your own oxygen.

Everything you need, you already carry within yourself. Love. Hope. Confidence. Courage. Honesty. Belief. It’s all there, ready for you to fetch. You need only remember to go and collect.

Even the biggest candle snuffer in the world could not resist that light. Once you find your way back to it, it’ll crack any exterior shell right open. Shoot towards the sky where it belongs, and break any dome of limitation straight in half.

No matter how hard it might try, the world can never snuff you out. You are not a candle. Only you can dim your light — and only you can release it. Choose to dial it up, and shine as bright as you can.

Focus vs. Productivity

A misconception about focus is that it means endless productivity. Yes, focusing for one, two, three hours at a time on a single task is great and essential, but ultimately, operational focus is only a small piece of the puzzle.

What makes a much larger, more strategic contribution is high-level focus — the refusal to engage in long-term distractions — and that means saying no to average opportunities even when the end result is not working at all in the moment.

If your goal is to write a book but you can’t get a single good sentence on the page, you’re better off taking a break than brainstorming how to monetize your Instagram followers. If you want to launch a membership portal but can’t decide which software to use, sleep on it. Going back to working on your online course might be easier, but it’s the wrong activity to spend time on.

This sounds obvious but is extremely challenging to practice on an everyday basis. It is much harder to say no to a mediocre task that’ll still feel productive when you’re exhausted than it is to say yes to an important task when you’re full of energy and excited to get started. But bad high-level focus is better than no high-level focus, and so when in doubt, you should worry about the big picture, not your daily output.

A focused person is not always productive, and a productive person is not always focused. Do your share while sitting at your desk, but more importantly, refuse to do anything that does not contribute to your mission at all. If push comes to shove, choose focus over productivity, because one might seemingly take care of everything, but only the other ensures what truly matters is taken care of when all is said and done.

Be a Broken Scale

This week, I finished reading Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson. The book has many flaws.

Its pacing is awkward, sometimes too slow, at other times too fast. The complexity of the story is impressive, but it also lacks clarity in a few critical places. The hero doesn’t struggle enough to earn his title, and he spits out a perfect, Sherlock-Holmes-esque explanation of the plot at the end despite not seeming all that clued in throughout the story. The romance elements feel forced, and by its last page, there are still a lot of loose ends to tie up.

Yet, despite all these problems, Snow Crash is still a great book. I’d recommend it to anyone interested in sci-fi, technology, or language. Why? Because its one great idea makes up for every deficiency — and that idea is the metaverse. In fact, Neal Stephenson invented the term, and 30 years after the novel’s publication, its still a groundbreaking vision.

What will it be like to move through a virtual world that feels just as real as our physical one? When will our 3D-avatars look exactly like we do? Apparently, these questions are so important, one of the world’s biggest company’s made the development of the metaverse its singular goal — a goal it committed to so seriously, it even changed its name, from Facebook to Meta.

Regardless of what you think of the concept, it is magnificent enough to outweigh a million flaws. When the book comes up in a chat, you might mention some of its shortcomings, but the metaverse is what will keep the conversation going. That’s worth more than any literary criticism, and that’s why you should be a broken scale. Allow one positive to balance out ten negatives so you can focus on the big picture and live life with a spring in your step.

It’s not always a mistake to not weigh everything equally. Sometimes, one plus should be enough to cancel out a thousand minuses. The trick is knowing when that’s the case, and then to not get hung up on small perceived slights when there are bigger things at stake.

The Wall Is Low

After he sneaks into the Shaolin temple to escape the local oppressors, the young Liu Yude becomes a monk in hopes of learning kung fu to better defend himself. Hotheaded and ambitious as he is, however, he keeps trying to skip the basics.

For the first year, Liu never voices his desire to learn kung fu. He just expects the masters to start teaching him. When he finally begins, they give him a choice: Which of the 35 training chambers does he want to start in? Of course, Liu picks the highest one — and is promptly thrown out for not even comprehending the assignment. When he concedes and starts over in the first chamber, it seems Liu has finally returned to planet Earth, and yet…

The challenge in the first chamber is simple enough: Jump on a bundle of wooden logs floating in water to cross a small chasm before entering the dining hall. Fall in, however, and your clothes won’t be dry in time for dinner. Naturally, Liu fails his first attempt — but instead of adapting, his gaze once again turns to shortcuts.

As it turns out, behind the small wall of the alleyway with the water ditch, there’s another alley, fully paved, for the masters to walk into the dining hall. So one night, Liu waits until everyone else has passed the chasm, then jumps on the wall. But before he can make it across, a master appears out of nowhere, slapping him right back to where he came from.

Graciously enough, he even hands Liu a valuable lesson — the piece of wisdom that will finally turn the tables on his attitude: “The wall is low, but Buddha’s might is infinite.” When he tries to cheat, Liu can fail in a million ways. Someone might catch him, and even if they don’t, they might see it and know him to be a cheater. And if he gets away scot-free? Then Liu himself will still always know that he cheated. It’s Buddha’s self-examining eye that he can never escape. Failure is, in a way, guaranteed, even when he succeeds.

But what if Liu tries in earnest? Then, too, he can fail. But though the how of his failing might be one of many, the true reason is always the same: He did his best, and it wasn’t quite enough just yet. So adapt, try, and adapt again. That’s an approach no one can find fault in. Not the masters, not Liu, and not even the Buddha himself. Only once he adopts this stance can Liu actually succeed — not just in passing the 35 chambers, but in finding his own, true path in life.

Whether it’s a wall you can jump, a corner you can cut, or an opportunity to stay silent where talking is necessary, remember: The bar for deception may be low, but the only one you end up fooling is yourself — and though it is ultimately as inescapable as Liu’s enemies, the truth is not an oppressor but meant to set you free.

Why Not?

Sangah Noona is a professional pianist and singer. In the pandemic, she lost most of her jobs playing in hotels and at events. With nothing else to do, she doubled down on her Youtube channel, and it has grown by a factor of ten since then.

In the background of Sangah’s videos, you’ll always see a transparent, backlit sign. “Why not?” it reads. Perhaps thanks to that very same question, Sangah moved to the United States from Korea, became licensed as a professional pilot, and chose to play Master of Puppets by Metallica as her entry audition for one of Korea’s best universities.

Sometimes, you’re staring down what feels like a big crossroads in your life, but actually, there’s already an answer right in front of you. It might not be the best answer, or even the right one, but if your gut is tingling and you’ve got no other obvious choices, perhaps it’s no longer necessary to look for reasons to walk that particular path. Maybe, it’s time to reverse the question, shrug, and give it a go.

Some doors in life say, “Why?” Others say, “Why not?” — and sometimes, that’s more than enough to open them and start a new adventure.


Brains are like dogs: They need to roam. When I feel hyperactive, I can try to meditate, light a candle, or do a breathing exercise, and sometimes those work just fine. Often, however, it is easier to give my brain something to bite into. To truly exercise its excess energy until the waterfall of thoughts peters out and reverts back into a calm stream.

This morning, I woke up, and instantly, the inner chatterbox went off. Instead of forcing my usual routine, after working out, I went back to bed and read a novel. My brain gobbled up page after page, and after about 20 of them, it slowed down. The mood reverted back to a more morning-friendly, “Okay, what’s important today? Let’s take it one step at a time,” and I went from there.

A friend of mine has a husky. He can run for miles. If he doesn’t do it at least on occasion, he becomes insufferable. My friend must let him roam. Whether you also do it via physical exercise, voracious reading, or by unapologetically filling page after page in your journal, afford your brain the same space.

Give your mind room to roam. There’s a right pace for every situation, but there’s also the right situation for any pace you might find yourself at. Put yourself in that situation, and let your brain do the rest.