10,000 Days

July 4th, 2018, was my 10,000th day on this Earth. Independence Day. How fitting. I was 27 years, 4 months, and 18 days old.

There was nothing special about the day. In fact, I don’t even remember it. And yet…10,000 sunrises. 10,000 times I went to bed. 10,000 times I woke up. Nearly 10,000 times I brushed my teeth. Nearly 10,000 showers. And a lot of living that happened in-between.

Of course, nowadays, most people live not just to 27-and-a-half, but to 30 and then some. Yet, just 150 years ago – which is only a little more than 10,000 days times 5 – most people didn’t. In 1870, the global average life expectancy was 29.7 years. Having turned 31 this year, I would already be an outlier by those standards.

And why not use those standards? Sometimes, looking back is more useful than looking forward. It is the kinder option, usually, so use it when we need kindness we shall.

It’s true that average is for losers, and I’m sure in your career, you have no problem giving yourself a hard time about this. The race towards our place in the sky, however, is rarely won by being a little bit faster. It is by stepping out of the race altogether – refusing to let ourselves be measured with any kind of stick that dons an “average” marker – that we’ll find both our pace and our place.

If celebrating our 10,000th day as something a little more special than a regular birthday or even the independence of a nation is the kind of ritual that helps us do that, then I think in that case, using (an old) average to our advantage is more than fair game.

Here’s to the next 10,000 days.

Forgetting the Basics

To enter a WeWork building, you need a card. The card opens the front door outside of business hours, which, in my building, start at 9 AM. It also opens the back door and, really, any door inside the building, many of which you’ll have to pass throughout the day to go to the toilet, the printer, the phone cabins, and so on.

Given how essential the card is to the WeWork experience, you’d think everyone would have theirs on themselves at all times, and yet, one of the most commonly overheard lines is “I forgot my card.” Sometimes, I see someone waving at me from the front door before 9 AM. I open it and hear: “I forgot my card.” I see people crossing the hallway, talking to each other. “Can you open this for me? I forgot my card.”

Now, cards can absolutely be forgotten. It happens. We all misplace things on occasion. But if you can find a different case of someone forgetting the very key to the building they work in on a daily basis, the only logical explanation is that not everyone is just occasionally forgetful. Some are forgetful by default – and when it comes to the basics, that’s not a good thing.

When a student showed up one hour late to his first class of the semester, Professor Scott Galloway from NYU’s Stern School of Business asked them to leave and come back the next class. The student later complained, explaining they were sampling three simultaneously occurring classes. Galloway’s email response went viral not only for its biting humor but also for its profound life advice: Get the easy stuff right.

Being creative, leading others, making a difference; these things are hard. Showing up on time, being respectful, keeping your key card in your wallet; these are easy in comparison. The basics aren’t enough to succeed – that’s why they’re basic – but without them, we don’t have a baseline to start from. You can’t do a triple somersault if you don’t set up the trampoline.

Don’t forget the basics.

A Breakdown or a Breakthrough?

When we say we have “a breakdown,” usually, the thing breaking down is our walls. Once our last lines of psychological defense have fallen, we are left weak and vulnerable.

It is often, however, those very same walls we were meant to break through to begin with. While they were up, they kept us from seeing the bigger picture. Now, we can find the right path.

It is unfortunate that it takes a complete leveling of said walls for us to break out of our shell, but that’s what rock bottom is for: The tougher the nut you want to crack, the harder you’ll have to smash it against the stone.

Humans are masters at self-deception. We can bury our emotions deeper than the world’s strongest drill can go. When decades of half-processed feelings are unearthed, it’s not a pretty experience, but it is only after those emotions are exposed to the sunlight that their true meaning can finally unfold.

“Breakdowns create breakthroughs,” Russ says. It’s rarely one or the other. Every crisis eventually brings clarity, and every wall is both a protector and an obstacle.

We can’t always choose the timeline of our renovations, but once construction gets underway, rest assured that, soon, your house will stand anew – and each time, when the sawdust finally settles, it will shine a little brighter than before.

One Level Deeper

When he wrote The Ocean at the End of the Lane, Neil Gaiman thought back to his seven-year-old self. He discovered something fascinating: The more time he spent remembering what it was like to be seven, the more he remembered about being seven. That’s what art does. It hits one level deeper – and not just when we create it.

My favorite OneRepublic song is Secrets. When I went to see them live, I knew the song was coming on next long before the slow, unrelated intro could give any confirmation of that being the case. I just had this feeling, deep in my gut. That, too, is what art does. It brings back what’s lost.

The mind stores a lot more than we can access. Art is the spark that lights the torches in the lowest levels of our emotional archives. Suddenly, the memories, thoughts, beliefs, and ideas come flooding back, all carried by a big wave of feelings.

The more time the artist has spent encoding their inner workings in their creation, the less likely it is to fly by only superficially, burning up like a shooting star before reaching our subconscious. If they did their job well – and did it for us, since art is subjective – their work will take us on a journey. It might be a trip back to our seven-year-old self, or a reminder of a relationship we lost, but it’ll always send us one level deeper, which, ironically, is the only way for us to find the light we were looking for all along.

Engage with art whenever you can. Bring back the torch of self-awareness. Return from the depths enlightened, and then show us the way.

Lost But Not Gone

In the movie Uncharted, two brothers muse about explorer Ferdinand Magellan’s hidden treasure. “So all that gold, it’s just gone?” the younger brother asks. “Lost. Not gone. There’s a difference,” the older one responds. “If something’s lost, it can be found.”

You may have lost your slim figure, your best friend from high school, or $10,000 in the stock market. You may have lost your trust in humans, your self-esteem, or your ability to concentrate. None of those things are gone. What’s lost can be found.

When treasure sits on the floor of the ocean for 500 years, it won’t be the same by the time we recover it. Neither will our intangible riches. You won’t look the same despite returning to your weight. Your best friend might be a different person. You’ll regain another kind of focus. That too is part of the deal.

Time won’t stop so we may conclude our search, but it’s a search we can begin at any time. No matter when something was lost, it is never too late for it to be found – and that, I find more comforting than gold.

20 Degrees – But Where?

When my girlfriend saw the Munich weather forecast before her visit, she said: “Oh no! Only 20 degrees celsius! It’s gonna be so cold.” I assured her it would be perfectly fine, and on the first day we went out – in shorts and t-shirts, I might add – she said: “Wow! You really don’t need a jacket here. It’s so warm!”

The lesson was that 20 degrees in London is not the same as 20 degrees in Munich or, in fact, 20 degrees anywhere else. Is it cloudy or clear skies? Does it rain or is the sun out? How windy does it get? Even if the main variable is the same, weather can feel very different.

This applies to much more than just the weather. In the right areas, Tokyo does not feel like a 30-million people city. Turn a quiet corner, and it’ll be as calm as a 1,000-person village. If a person with red hair cheated on you, someone else with the same color could still become your best friend – but only if you trust them, and whether that feels right is nothing a statistic can answer for you.

Don’t hold measurements in too high esteem. Demand their context. Experience it. Live it. Breathe it. Only then will you truly know what 20 degrees feel like. Pack both a sweater and a t-shirt, and prepare to be surprised.

Can You Leave It Alone?

Whenever you delete an app, sell a prized possession, or throw away your gear for some activity, you’re initiating a test: Can you live without it? How strongly has the habit been ingrained?

Withdrawal symptoms are real, even for the simple things. The last time I left home, I decided to not bring my Nintendo Switch. Every now and then, I do wish I could play. Overall, however, it’s not so bad. There’s plenty to do. I can watch movies. I can read. It’s a good exercise.

Can you still leave the Matrix? Can you leave it alone? According to HD Thoreau, this is the true definition of wealth: Not money or property, but control of our attention. “A man is rich in proportion to the number of things he can afford to let alone,” he wrote.

If my Switch is 400 kilometers away, but I think about it night and day, I haven’t really left it, have I? I have dropped the item, but I refuse to leave it alone. That’s why, every now and then, we must leave the people, possessions, and activities we love – if only temporarily – for if we can no longer let go of things, we have lost a lot more than just an item or even a friend.

What’s something that might have started growing a little too close to home? Try dropping it. See how it feels to leave it alone. I’m sure you can pick it up again later, and it won’t have any scratches.

It’s All There

Look in the mirror. Do you see the courage you need to make your biggest dream come true? Trust me, it’s there.

What about the compassion, the self-love, the forgiveness for all the screw-ups along the way? That too is there.

So are the joy, the kindness, the lack of self-importance that’ll infect others and make them carry you for parts of the journey.

Do you see fierceness, grit, determination? Look closer! They’re right there in plain sight, hiding beneath the glass projecting your shiny reflection.

Can you find empathy, creativity, and vision in your spitting mirror image? Where exactly in your body do they sit? Point to them. Are they in the gut? The brain? Your left arm? You’ll feel where they are if you try.

Where are honesty, integrity, and humility? Look! They usually hang around with vulnerability, but even if you can’t spot them right now, I guarantee you they too are all there.

Everything you’ve ever needed is already there. It’s available to you at this very second. Do not let any piece of news, friend, foe, or family member tell you otherwise. They’re lying. They just don’t know any better.

It’s all there, right inside you, right from the beginning. You were born with the full emotional arsenal it takes to handle everything – absolutely everything – life might throw your way. Use it.

Don’t wait for life to press your buttons and hope for the right reaction. You press the buttons. You’re in charge of the buttons. Hell, you can destroy and remake buttons as you see fit.

Whatever you need, it’s all there. You might not see it in the mirror, but if you trust it exists and want to grab it, you’ll always find it in its place.

10,000 Hours vs. 10,000 Times

If my math is right, Seth Godin will publish his 10,000th blog post on Friday, January 23rd, 2026 (not counting some of his older stuff that’s lost to time).

Since Seth posts a blog every day, he will have done it 10,000 times over 10,000 days. How long is that? 27 years, 4 months, and 23 days. That’s a lot more than 10,000 hours, a number popularized in Malcolm Gladwell’s book Outliers as “the price of success,” although that’s not quite what he said.

Still, Seth himself argued that 10,000 hours is anything but a guarantee: You can kick a ball towards the goal every day for ten hours, but if you don’t observe and change how you do it, you won’t score any more points three years later. The Olsen twins, meanwhile, were famous before they had done so much as 1,000 hours of acting to begin with, let alone acting practiced deliberately.

“In many mature markets, it takes 10,000 hours of preparation to win because most people give up after 5,000 hours. That’s the only magic thing about 10k… it’s a hard number to reach, so most people bail,” Seth writes. A lawyer might put in 20,000 hours to make partner, but if a creator finds the right blend of flavor, voice, and target audience, she can blow up after 100 videos or less.

10,000 hours is about five years of working 40 hours a week, not counting vacations. Even if you double it for good measure, most people put in that kind of time over the course of their lives. They don’t all dedicate it to one skill in particular or even one specific job, but the math and its message remain the same: Unless you get focused, 10,000 hours might not do as much for you as you’d want them to – and that brings me back to 10,000 times.

When you do something every day for 30 years, you’re not doing it to extract some measurable result from the world. You’re doing it because that’s who you are – and that makes the kind of thing you can do 10,000 times the much better choice for your career, life, and happiness.

Why intellectualize a question your gut already knows the answer to? Why deviate from nature’s path to host a decade-long science experiment? Start with what feels right, and then walk that road as far as you can go. Is cooking still fun after 2,000 meals? Have you not run out after 500 vlogs? Well, great! Keep going!

It might take 10,000 hours to find the thing you’ll want to do 10,000 times, but at least those hours are guaranteed to be well-spent – and who knows? Maybe you’ll need much less than that.

Whatever it is, whenever you’ll find it, it will be then and there that your life’s work truly begins. I can’t tell you to what magical places it’ll take you, but I know that by the time you hit 10,000 iterations, you’ll long have forgotten to count – and that’s worth more than even the shiniest of trophies.

The Cup That Must Overflow

One of Bruce Lee’s favorite stories was the tale of the learned man: An educated man visited a Zen teacher only to not listen to his ideas and constantly interrupt him. During a tea break, the teacher kept pouring tea into the learned man’s cup – until it began overflowing. “Stop!” the learned man yelled. “Can’t you see the cup is full?” “Like this cup, you are full of your own opinions,” the teacher said. “If you do not first empty yourself, how can you taste my cup of tea?”

As someone who published a whole newsletter and is now writing a book around the idea of “emptying your cup,” I never would have thought there might be another cup in our lives where overflowing is the appropriate state for it to be in – but there is.

After rapper Russ created his music label DIEMON with his best friend Bugus, they took on several new members. Some of them released several songs, others shipped only one project. Some never published anything. The one behavior they all shared? They quit.

Russ and Bugus really believed in their members. They hyped them as much as they could. They saw a lot of talent in them, but the members themselves did not.

“Picture self-belief as a cup,” Russ suggests in his mini-memoir. “My cup, along with Bugus’s, was running over. We had enough to spare.” The members’ cups, however? “They had holes in them! We would try to pour our belief into them before realizing our attempts were futile.”

The big lesson Russ learned was that “this world doesn’t bet on talent. It bets on people who bet on themselves.”

When it comes to learning, understanding others, and making good judgments, keep your cup empty. Taste all flavors of tea before you jump to conclusions. With regards to believing in yourself, however, I hope your cup will overflow till kingdom – or success, or freedom, or peace – come.

Let one cup stay empty, the other filled to the brim. Be both humble and relentless. That is the balance we need to keep walking – whether it is to the home of a famous teacher or the studio in which we’ll record our next song.