Death Will Be an Interruption Cover

Death Will Be an Interruption

19 weeks into their pregnancy, Keri and Royce Young found out their daughter suffered from anencephaly. It’s a rare, prenatal disease, which prevents the child from developing a big portion of its brain, skull, and scalp.

The odds of survival are zero. Lives with anencephaly are counted in hours, days at most. After 48 hours of deliberating the impossible decision to lose a child or a pregnancy, they decided to go through with the pregnancy, so they could donate their daughter’s organs and save another human being.

“We decided to continue, and chose the name Eva for our girl, which means “giver of life.” The mission was simple: Get Eva to full-term, welcome her into this world to die, and let her give the gift of life to some other hurting family. It was a practical approach, with an objective for an already settled ending point.”

As pragmatic as it looks in a paragraph, think about how much respect this choice deserves. Such a noble decision, one most people could never bear. But decisions, good or bad, have no say in how time works.

“If you want to make God laugh, tell him about your plans.” 

— Woody Allen

Right when Keri hit the two-week window for Eva’s birth, the baby’s brain functions gave out. After life had cheated them out of their initial plan, death cheated them out of the backup. No daughter, no hello, no organs to donate, no goodbye.

In a lucky turn of events, Eva’s eyes helped save someone else’s sight, but the story just goes to show: we can’t prepare for the unpreparable.

The Prison We All Share

In The 7 Habits Of Highly Effective People, one of Stephen R. Covey’s key tenets is “begin with the end in mind.” He suggests a thought experiment called ‘the funeral test,’ in which you imagine what four speakers would say at your burial. One is family, one a friend, one from work, and one from a community.

“What would you like each of these speakers to say about you and your life? What kind of husband, wife, father, or mother would you like their words to reflect? What kind of son or daughter or cousin? What kind of friend? What kind of working associate?

What character would you like them to have seen in you? What contributions, what achievements would you want them to remember? Look carefully at the people around you. What difference would you like to have made in their lives?”

These are all important questions. They’re great in helping us adjust how we behave today. What’s bad is that they inevitably trigger long-range planning and you can’t do that without estimating time. Even if we’re building our plans around the best intentions, they’re still built around a big construct of expectations.

In 2017, Scott Riddle was diagnosed with stage 4 colon cancer. He’s a guy like you and me. A father, an employee, a husband, a friend. He is 35 years old. So far he’s recovering, but his plans? They’re all gone. Because no matter how smart it is to think about your own funeral, no one would put it just two, or five, or ten years into the future. That’s Scott’s big takeaway:

“Stop just assuming you have a full lifetime to do whatever it is you dream of doing.” 

The only guaranteed path we take in life is one we cannot control; we’re all hurling towards death inside our little cages of time. And to add insult to injury, life makes sure to knock on the bars along the way.

In 2008, we lost my grandma to lung cancer. She was 66. In 2016, my uncle died in his sleep. He was 52. Knock. Knock. Everyone loses someone. They need not be people we know, but they’re always people we care about. Like Chester. Or Tim. Time is the prison we all share. No reminders needed, but we get them anyway. Lest we forget.

A Stubborn Illusion

We go through life imagining that when death comes, we’ll somehow be ready. We’ll lie in bed at 103 years old, surrounded by our loved ones, say our final goodbye and then fall asleep. That’s a beautiful vision, and I wish it for anyone, but it’s really dangerous to get attached to it. We’ll never be ready. We’ll never be done. When the time comes, nobody wants to go.

This isn’t to say all long-range planning is useless. There’s a balance. But mapping out your life until the end, including the end, is a futile fight against time. Maybe a better way is to think of life in cycles, like Seth Godin does when he describes it as a series of dips:

“There isn’t just one dip. It’s not like ‘let’s get through that dip and we’re done.’ Steve Jobs helped invent the personal computer, helped launch the graphical interface, helped launch the mp3 business, helped launch computer animation at Pixar. He’s not done. Just like skiing, the goal is not to get to the bottom of the hill, the goal is to have a bunch of good runs before the sun sets.”

In 1948, Albert Einstein was diagnosed with an aneurysm in his abdominal aorta. A ticking time bomb, impossible to defuse. He chose to hold it patiently. Seven years later, just after his 76th birthday, his friend Michele Besso passed away. Aware of his own time running out, he shared an insight in his condolence letter to Besso’s family:

“He has departed from this strange world a little ahead of me. That means nothing. For us believing physicists, the distinction between past, present and future is only a stubborn illusion.”

Einstein himself died a month later. In Einstein: His Life and Universe, biographer Walter Isaacson describes his last moments:

“At his bedside lay the draft of his undelivered speech for Israel Independence Day. “I speak to you today not as an American citizen and not as a Jew, but as a human being,” it began. Also by his bed were twelve pages of tightly written equations, littered with cross-outs and corrections.

To the very end, he struggled to find his elusive unified field theory. And the final thing he wrote, before he went to sleep for the last time, was one more line of symbols and numbers that he hoped might get him, and the rest of us, just a little step closer to the spirit manifest in the laws of the universe.”

Einstein’s last equation

What Einstein showed us, both in his words and behavior, is that there is no such thing as time. Just a giant current of the unknown that carries us into the wind. And all we can do is live our lives, whether we surrender to it or not.

Even if you’ve made your peace with it, death will be an interruption.

One day, you’ll be out skiing, working, reading, writing, skateboarding with the other kids and changing the world. The sun will set and you’ll realize “oh, I won’t be able to finish this today.” The question is can you go to bed and say “I’ll do it tomorrow?”

In the end, the Youngs learned a similar lesson:

“None of it went as we planned. We’re trying to rest on knowing we did the best we could. We always said we wanted to limit our regret, and I think in 20 years or so as we reflect on this, there’s not much we’d change. Because anything we would change was already outside of our control anyway.”

The only thing we can really do is accept not being ready. Accept being naked. Prepared to be unprepared. And maybe, just maybe, letting go won’t hurt so much.

“It’s a weird thing to say that in probably the worst experience of my life was also maybe the best moment of my life, but I think it was the best moment of my life. The timing of it all is just something I can’t explain. It wasn’t what we planned or hoped for, but it was everything we needed in that moment.”

No matter when it happens, I imagine a peaceful death will be just the same.

How Should 20-Somethings Spend Their Time?

One day, you will wake up and be 75 years old. It happens to all of us. We blink and life passes. The question is whether it passes us by.

When you do get up on that fateful morning, look in the mirror, and realize you’re not happy, or that you’ve wasted too much time, it’ll be because right now, you didn’t properly answer life’s three big questions.

1. What Do I Want My Normal, Boring Days to Look Like?

How do you enjoy spending your time? What could you do for work that wouldn’t feel like work? How can you make money doing what you love? What can you learn to love?

When you’re 22, life feels like every day should be about fun. But if you only do the minimum to choose a career, you’ll end up choosing out of ten companies you applied to and the three you did internships for. That’s a very small sand box to play in.

So many people get sucked into a hole that they never get out of again, because they took their first job on a whim. Don’t take your first job on a whim.

2. Who Do I Want in My Life?

Who’s going to be your partner in crime? Where might you find them? Do you have five friends you can really count on? Or 250 whose last names you don’t know?

Everyone knows that thing about being the average of the five people around you, but very few people ask: Who are these five people? You can choose them.

You don’t have to settle for who lives in your dorm, who’s in your class, who you meet at the club, or whoever happens to just be available.

3. Where Do I Want to Live?

What city makes me feel at home? Does it make me better or worse? Is it distracting or empowering? Do I need nature and calm or urban restlessness?

I first visited Munich when I was 16 years old and it immediately felt like home. I returned again and again for longer periods of time, while comparing other options. Once it was clear I liked it best out of all cities in Germany, I moved here.

That was 10 years later, and I haven’t even left the country. Travel is all the rage right now, but most of us eventually want to settle, because it takes time to build a life. But it also takes time to figure out where you can settle.

Spend more time answering these questions. Take a year for each one. Or two.

These things don’t feel like they matter much now. That’s a mirage. Don’t wake up in 50 years and realize they’re what mattered the most.

The Fastest Way to Become Smarter Cover

The Fastest Way to Become Smarter

Four monks decided to meditate silently without speaking for two weeks. They lit a candle as a symbol of their practice and began. By nightfall on the first day, the candle flickered and then went out.

The first monk said: “Oh, no! The candle is out.”

The second monk said: “We’re not supposed to talk!”

The third monk said: “Why must you two break the silence?”

The fourth monk laughed and said: “Ha! I’m the only one who didn’t speak.”


95% of all talking covers only two topics:

  • The person whose mouth is open.
  • Stuff that’s outside our control.

The first monk got distracted by an outside event and felt compelled to point it out. He could’ve just re-lit the candle.

The second monk reminded everyone of a rule that had already been broken. He could’ve just kept meditating.

The third monk vented his anger. He could’ve just stayed calm.

The fourth monk got carried away with his ego. He could’ve just enjoyed his success in silence.

What all four have in common is that they shared their thoughts without filtering them, none of which added anything to improve the situation. If there had been a fifth, wiser monk, here’s what he would have done: Remain silent and keep meditating.

In doing so, he would’ve shown each of the other four monks their shortcomings without a single word. The more you talk, the more likely you are to say something stupid. The less you talk, the more you can listen.

Listening leads to learning.

What’s more, when you’re not talking, you have time to observe the situation until you spot the moment when it’s actually important to say something. Only speak when what you say is likely to have a significant, positive impact, for wisdom is cultivated in silence.

The less you speak, the smarter you get. And, maybe not quite coincidentally, the smarter you get, the less you speak.

6 Unwritten Social Rules Everyone Should Know Cover

6 Unwritten Social Rules Everyone Should Know

When you drive into Area 51, past the sign that says “Restricted Area,” you know what rules you’re violating. You’re trespassing on secret government property, you can be searched, photos are forbidden and boy, you better not launch any drones.

But there’s also a set of unwritten rules of Area 51. Nobody knows exactly what they are, but they’re what leads to all the rumors and myths surrounding the place.

  • Will you never come back?
  • Will you come back, but not be the same?
  • Can you ever talk about what happened?

Every place on this earth is like Area 51. There are rules, written and unwritten, and they depend on the time, the people, the country, the culture, the politics, and a whole lot of other values.

Following these rules as best as you can is less a sign of being a blind follower than it is a gesture of respect for others. Adapting can be a way of being kind. That said, sometimes you can also lead by making your own social rules and hoping others will follow.

  • When you enter a quiet room, be quiet. When you enter a lively room, be lively. Read the room.
  • When your opposite is talking to you, don’t use your phone. Don’t even touch it. When your opposite is on their phone, don’t be on your phone also. Maybe you can bring them back.
  • When people pass you in the street, acknowledge them. Look, nod, be part of the world. Don’t stare at the ground. Don’t be an antibody.
  • When you love someone, don’t tell them all the time. Just show them. Look at them, be attentive, listen. They’ll understand, even without words.
  • When you disagree with someone, ask: “Does it really matter that I disagree with them?” Is it worth starting a fight? Most of the time, it’s not.
  • When you can help people without really going out of your way, do it. Including, but not limited to, holding doors, standing up and giving exact change.

These are some of the ones I try to follow. So far, I haven’t ended up in Area 51.

This Framework Will Make You Better at Changing Your Habits Cover

This Framework Will Make You Better at Changing Your Habits

“To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.” 

— Ralph Waldo Emerson


We always tell each other to just “be ourselves.” Have a presentation or talk to give? Just be yourself. A job interview? Just be yourself, you’ll do fine. A party or date to go to? Just be who you are.

Just. I hate that word. Nothing easy ever follows it.

The reason we constantly have to reassure one another that it’s okay to be ourselves is that it’s the hardest thing in the world. It’s based on two lofty assumptions:

  1. You know who you are.
  2. You’re comfortable expressing it in any setting.

Most of us can say neither for ourselves. At least not to the degree we’d like to. I hope what follows alleviates some of that pain.

What You Should Know About Yourself

Soul-searching is a great hobby. You’re never done. The question is: where does self-exploration stop being useful? For me, the following framework marked a clear milestone.

When I first started coaching on coach.me, Tony Stubblebine graciously sent us a book that influenced my coaching a lot. It’s also helped me understand my own behavior a lot better. The name of that book was Better Than Before.

Gretchen Rubin, a former lawyer turned researcher, author and human behavior aficionado, wrote it in 2015, to much acclaim and success. One of the key ideas, if not the centerpiece of the book, was a personality framework called “The Four Tendencies,” which she later expanded upon in its own book of the same title.

Using this framework will help you understand how you deal with your internal and external expectations. This’ll allow you to better manage your life and work. What’s more, you can try to spot other peoples’ tendencies, which’ll help improve your relationships.

Here’s what it looks like:

Where Does This Idea Come From? Well…

When we’re babies, no one expects us to do anything. Our parents celebrate it when we eat, clap when we poop and let out a huge sigh of relief when we finally fall asleep.

As we grow up, this changes. Fast. It starts with “clean your room,” soon turns to “you need to contribute to the household” and ends with “you have to take care of yourself now.”

Most of us aren’t ready for all the expectations the world piles onto us, let alone the internal ones we have of ourselves that add to the pressure.

And yet, somehow, we deal with them. We learn, we struggle and over time, hopefully we get better. All of this, our approach to dealing with our internal and life’s external expectations, is formed subconsciously.

The Four Tendencies framework helps you identify this approach and trust me, there’s a lot to discover. Each tendency is linked to a specific strategy for dealing with the two kinds of expectations we face: resisting or meeting them.

Here’s a little cheat sheet you can use to identify yourself, remember what’s distinctive for each type and how to deal with them better:

1. Upholders

Upholders meet inner and outer expectations. They love rules, having a clear plan and are self-motivated and disciplined. Clearly tell them what needs to be done and they’ll lead the way.

2. Questioners

Questioners meet their own expectations, but resist outer ones. They need to see purpose and reason in anything they do. Make it clear why what you want from them is important.

3. Obligers

Obligers meet other peoples’ expectations easily, but struggle with their own. The must be held accountable by a friend, coach or boss to get things done. They thrive when they have a sense of duty and can work in a team.

4. Rebels

Rebels defy both outer and inner expectations. Above all, they want to be free to choose and express their own individuality. Give them the facts, present the task as a challenge and let them decide without pressure.

It’s pretty easy to recognize yourself based on those descriptions alone, but if you’re not sure, you can take a quiz Gretchen designed specifically to help you find out.

How Can This Help You Change Your Habits?

Expectations are a huge determinant of what we do. You juggle all the hopes people have for you, mixed with those you have for yourself. Based on that mix and your tendency, you determine the right middle ground.

Meet…or resist?

Is this still okay? What’s a no-go? Who must I live up to? Who do I disappoint? How much? How often?

Constantly faced with this stressful tradeoff, we default to what our tendency dictates. Meet inner, resist outer. Resist inner, meet outer. And so on.

Knowing what your default is makes it a lot easier to adjust your environment in a way that makes the default lead to the outcome you want.

For example, as an Obliger, forcing yourself to meet a friend at the gym will make it easier to actually go there. A rebel needs the freedom to choose to work out without pressure, and a Questioner might want to keep a list of health benefits ready.

Know your tendency, know your goal, adjust expectations. That’s the idea.

A Word of Advice

It’s easy to get carried away with this stuff. That’s dangerous. When you chisel your tendency in stone, you might know one thing more about yourself and you might even accept it, but you’ll also turn it into an excuse and stop believing that you can change. That’s not the point of this exercise.

Instead of putting yourself in a box, use this concept to get to know yourself better. Identify your strengths, weaknesses, and improve your relationships with others. Be mindful of their tendencies, not just your own. And remember that human behavior is fluid. No personality test can pigeonhole you. Unless you let it.

After all, no matter how much we learn from them, life isn’t lived in frameworks and books, but in the real world, among people. People like you and me, figuring out who they are. Searching, so they can start being themselves.

If you treat them right, maybe they’ll let you do just that.

This Is Life's Worst Trap Cover

This Is Life’s Worst Trap

Most of the time, life looks like above.

No matter where we stand, the grass is always greener on the other side. It’s that little patch of green across the horizon, where the sun always seems to shine.

  • A better job.
  • A beautiful woman.
  • A million dollars.
  • A Louis Vuitton handbag.
  • A sixpack.
  • A surfing vacation.
  • A new home.
  • A better habit.
  • A few more fans.
  • A piece of insight.

So we spend our days chasing the light at the end of our tunnel vision. We fight, we struggle, we complain, we throw others under the bus and we forget ourselves completely in the process.

We don’t turn around and we never stop and just stare. Stare at the green all around us. When actually, most of the sunshine falls along the way.

And when we finally arrive, we reach the top of the hill, we throw our fists in the air. We breathe for a second and enjoy the view, but just long enough to realize life now looks like this:

Life’s biggest traps are the ones we assemble right around us.

We build our cages with desire and ego when we could just as well build airplanes made from gratitude, service and being present.

But there is one, true ray of light at the end of the tunnel: we’re free to abandon one for the other at any moment.

The Most Important Rules to Break Are Your Own Cover

The Most Important Rules to Break Are Your Own

When I first began learning how to live a better life, I decided to watch a video every day. After 67 days, I branched into more specific habits. With every individual habit, I took the same approach: do it every day.

  • When I stopped drinking, I didn’t drink for two years.
  • When I started writing down my priorities, I did it every day for a year.
  • When I quit coffee, I didn’t have any for 100 days.

Once I started coaching people and helping them with their habits, I found a tool called The Habit Tendency Quiz. I’m an Upholder. The creator of the quiz, Gretchen Rubin, says Upholders are great at picking up and letting go of habits for one reason: they play really well by the rules.

Whether I set them for myself or am handed a guidebook, once I know what the expectations are, I’ll work my ass off to live up to them. But this is also the dark side, Gretchen says:

“Upholders are too driven by getting the Goldstar. They look for the rules beyond the rules. It’s too important for them to know what the rules are. They’re almost boxed in by the rules. They don’t know what to do when there aren’t any.”


In 2014, I decided to take online business seriously. In 2015, I decided writing would be my way to win. So I lived by the rule I knew to have worked, the only rule I knew: write every day.

For over two years, I have lived by this rule.

In 2015, I wrote 250,000 words. In 2016, I published a book summary each day. 500,000 words. In 2017, I kickstarted my journey on Quora the same way.

For a while now I’ve known it’s time to let go of this rule. I wanted to finish my year of daily answers and then quit. But once you’ve chosen a new path, there’s no use in delaying it. That’s a new rule I’d like to try.

The most important rules to break are your own.

Replace them with better rules. When you find a better rule, it’s your responsibility to implement it immediately. So today, I’m moving into new territory: The land of no rules.

When a post takes me three days, it takes me three days. If I feel like writing three answers in one day, that’s what I’ll do. And if I don’t feel good about any piece for a week, I won’t publish.


Knowing the rules is important. It allows you to pinpoint which ones you better follow and which ones must be broken to win. But on top of the rules of the game, you’re playing by your own.

These rules are invisible. They’re hard to see. You may never have consciously set them. Some serve you for a while. Others keep you from moving forward.

You can’t find these rules in a guidebook. They’re part of who you are. Which makes them hard to let go. Much harder to reject than others’ rules.

When you discover your own rules, do you have the courage to break them?

“I am free, no matter what rules surround me. If I find them tolerable, I tolerate them; if I find them too obnoxious, I break them. I am free because I know that I alone am morally responsible for everything I do.”

― Robert A. Heinlein

If You Secretly Dream About Being A Billionaire, This Is For You Cover

If You Secretly Dream About Being a Billionaire, This Is For You

I was raised with a lot of privilege. I’m not trying to deny it. But you know what the massive side dish is that comes with privilege? Delusion. You always expect more food to magically appear on your plate, without so much as leaving the table.

One of the most common, yet most dangerous illusions my generation secretly indulges in is the idea of becoming a billionaire.

Go ahead. Feel it. Deep down. It’s there.

“I’ll become a billionaire.”

As if it was just a matter of when. If you just felt a slight tingle, I have a few questions for you. Questions for future billionaires.

1. What’s your GOOD reason for wanting to make a billion?

I like David Blaine’s idea that success is giving as much as you get.

He says what makes Bill Gates so great is that he’s figured out how to give the money he’s amassed to worthy causes better than most institutions can. Polio’s almost eradicated. Next, he’s going after Guinea worm disease.

If the only place you want to direct the money is into your own pocket, you’ll never think broad enough to reach a billion.

“To make a billion dollars, help a billion people.”  —  Peter Diamandis

2. What’s your REAL reason for wanting to make a billion?

Now that we’ve got the noble cause out of the way, why do you really need the money? What happiness can a billion buy you that 100 million can’t?

That 10 million can’t? That one million can’t?

It’s just another arbitrary number. What’s not arbitrary is the psychological hole you’re hoping it’ll fill. Where’s the hole?

Are you insecure? Lonely? Do you lack self-worth? Self-love? Who do you want to prove wrong? Yourself? The world?

It’s okay. Just like the idea of becoming a billionaire itself, when you dig deep enough, you’ll realize it’s there. We all have it. But know it’s there.

“There’s always a good reason and there’s always a real reason.”  —  James Altucher

3. How are you going to make your billion?

Seriously. Do the math. The real, serious math. We’re not talking about revenue here. We’re talking about profit. Profit you can pocket.

What does a billionaires bank account even look like? Is there ever a billion on there? I have no idea. And neither do you.

Only 3% of billionaires made their money from running private companies. Can you take a company from zero to IPO? How big is your total market? Is there even a billion in there?

“If past history was all there was to the game, the richest people would be librarians.” — Warren Buffett

4. Who’s going to make your billion for you?

That’s right. Not with you. For you. You have to be aware that in the end, that’s what’s happening. Everyone you hire along your journey will partly be responsible for making your billion. And you will hire people. You have to.

These people will work with you. But they’ll make money for you. Tell me: Why should they? Tell them. You better have a compelling reason. A good offer.

What are you going to give back? What are you going to do for them?

“Help young people. Help small guys. Because small guys will be big.”  —  Jack Ma

5. When do you expect your billion?

If the answer is anything less than 20 years from now, you can stop right here. Warren Buffett became a millionaire just before turning 30. He first was a billionaire at 56. That’s 26 years, starting from millionaire status.

Are you a millionaire yet? No? Whoops. That’s just the first part. But even that’s ridiculously hard.

And don’t you dare tell me about Mark Zuckerberg. You’re not Mark Zuckerberg. Mark Zuckerberg isn’t reading this. Neither would you be, if you were already seriously working on your billion.

“I’m here to build something for the long-term. Anything else is a distraction.”  —  Mark Zuckerberg

6. What are you willing to give up for your billion?

If being a billionaire is your number one goal, think about number two. You will not get number two. Or three. Or four. The bigger the goal, the bigger the sacrifice.

0.0000272% of all humans are billionaires. They gave up not one, but all the things that make the other 99.99% of people what they are — the other 99.99% of the people.

Whatever you think you can also have, next to being a billionaire, you most likely can’t. We’re not talking about giving up watching football here.

Are you willing to be a bad father for your billion? An absent mother? Are you willing to lose your girlfriend? Or all your friends? Would you give up family? Sleep? Food for a week?

Most importantly: Are you willing to give up being understood by every single person you know?

“I was set free, because my greatest fear had already been realized, and I was still alive, and I still had a daughter whom I adored, and I had an old typewriter and a big idea. And so rock bottom became the solid foundation on which I rebuilt my life.”  —  J.K. Rowling


Privilege is a sweet syrup. There’s lots to gain from savoring it. Delusion is the bitter taste it leaves in your mouth when you get used to it.

So here’s one last piece of bark to chew on. As of 2017, there are 2,043 billionaires in the world.

How many of them do you think started with dreaming about being a billionaire?


Sources

[1] Fear{less} with Tim Ferriss

[2] 2015 Gates Annual Letter

[3] American Billionaires And Their Private Company Fortunes

[4] The Age When 17 Self-Made Billionaires Earned Their First Million

How To Be Mentally Strong: The Magic of David Blaine Cover

How To Be Mentally Strong: The Magic of David Blaine

David Blaine might be the mentally toughest person on earth.

Here’s a short excerpt of the death-defying feats he’s pulled off over the years:

  • Holding his breath for 17 minutes and 4 seconds.
  • Consuming nothing but water for 44 days.
  • Catching a .22 caliber bullet with a small metal cup in his mouth.

…and, my personal favorite, Blaine standing atop a 100-foot high column for 35 hours with no sleep.

On multiple occasions, David was closer to dying than surviving. His strength to endure these situations is unfathomable.

More so, he has the courage to seek them out repeatedly, all because they fuel his ultimate goal: bring magic to the people.

Here’s what you and I can learn from him:

1. Be curious about enduring things.

When his mother fought cancer without complaint, David saw there’s more to hardship than suffering.

You can learn from it. But you have to wonder what’s on the other side to do that.

2. Hold on to creativity for dear life.

David went to Central Booking, the Manhattan municipal jail, for jumping a turnstile once. To avoid getting his ass kicked by the four buffest guys in the cell, he used the only thing he had left: his creativity.

Eventually, he won the whole block over with his magic and got out.

Hold on to your creativity as if your life depended on it. Some day it might.

3. Have nothing to lose.

David’s mother died in his arms. It almost broke him, but it left him with nothing to lose and everything to gain. We all have things we’re afraid will be taken away some day.

The only way to not let that stop you is to let go before you lose them.

4. Fast.

One of David’s favorite books is Siddartha by Hermann Hesse. When Siddartha practices living in poverty, a merchant asks him what he can give if he has no possessions. To that, Siddartha says:

“I can think, I can wait, I can fast. If a man has nothing to eat, fasting is the most intelligent thing he can do.”

Hunger is the most elementary test of human existence. Take it.

5. Train remaining calm in extreme situations.

Navy SEALs are made comfortable with blacking out under water by having to walk across the bottom of a pool while strapped to 45 pound plates. David held his breath while hanging around sharks so he would know what it feels like to perform under stress.

Don’t just practice hard, practice under the hardest conditions.

6. Expose yourself to your worst fears.

Extreme doesn’t always mean dangerous. Blaine was afraid of cockroaches. Yes, bugs. One night, he slept in a little tent in Botswana, which was circled by one and a half ton hippos. Suddenly, the bugs became his friends.

When your brain gets close to the breaking point, it’ll throw your worst fears at you. You have to know they’re not real when the time comes.

7. Learn to override your brain.

Not succumbing to your brain’s irrational illusions is just one half of winning the battle. Once you do, you’ll still have to get it to follow you in the right direction.

David likes to trick his mind with numbers. On his 44-day fast, he created a superstition that once he’d get to 22 days, he’d be fine. After getting half, he focused on the next 11 days, and so on.

Pretend arbitrary milestones mean everything and maybe, one day, you’ll master your brain.

8. When you know you’re going to fail, go on.

At the halfway mark during his second world record breath holding attempt, David said he was “100% certain that I was not gonna be able to make this.”

But he figured since Oprah had dedicated an hour to the live TV special, he’d be better off fighting until he blacks out.

After 10 minutes, the blood started rushing away from his extremities to protect his vital organs.

At 12 minutes, his left arm went numb, and he started panicking about having a heart attack.

At 15 minutes, he went into heart ischemia, with his pulse jumping from 150 to 40 and back.

16 minutes in, David is just waiting to have a heart attack. He floats to the top of the bubble, waiting. Seconds float by, feeling like years.

When the doctors pull him out of the water at 17 minutes and 4 seconds, David Blaine has held his breath longer than any human in history.

All because when he had already failed, he kept going anyway.


Most of us don’t have to risk dying to push our mission forward. But it’s the kind of magic worth emulating.

Take these lessons. Carry them with you. Within yourself. Turn them into a system. Whatever it takes to close the gap between your present state and your true potential.

Hopefully, one day, you can live at the edge.

We are all capable of infinitely more than we believe.”

— David Blaine


Sources

[1] David Blaine’s Personal Website

[2] Tim Ferriss interviewing David Blaine on fear{less}

[3] David Blaine’s TED Talk

The Most Depressing One-Liner Cover

The Most Depressing One-Liner

I’ve only ever heard this phrase in German, but here’s a translation:

“There is no worse way of missing someone than to sit next to them, knowing they’ll never be with you.”

From 10th grade all the way to high school graduation, for over 3 years, I sat next to a girl in class I loved, feeling exactly like that. Let’s call her Jamie.

I didn’t know Jamie very well before, even though we had been in the same class for years, but somehow, we ended up sitting next to each other that year. Before I knew it, we were best friends. Classic.

She was beautiful. Still is. I didn’t know how to talk to girls. Still don’t.

But she had a boyfriend for ages. And then another one. For ages. So all these years, we sat next to each other, and all I felt I could do was to watch her relationships pass by, waiting for a train that might never arrive.

We were always side by side. On the bus during field trips. In class. In the car. Outside the club on the curb. On our couch at home. On her bed when she cried over her first breakup. And her second.

Three months before we graduated, I’d finally had enough. On Christmas 2010, along with her gift, I gave Jamie a letter, explaining everything. She was single then. But she never responded. Sort of…ignored the issue away. Classy.

Except that I was pissed. Maybe I needed that. Made moving on easier.

I still think about her. Sometimes, she pops up in my mind and I think to myself:

“Hey Jamie…what if?”

And then I remember that life is still beautiful. That being able to even feel this pain is a gift. That I was lucky to sit next to someone so awesome for so long.

But I also always remember that feeling of sitting next to her, knowing “this is never going to work.”

I’ve had that feeling many times since then. But it never felt quite the same way.


PS: Here’s the original phrase in German: “Die schlimmste Art, jemanden zu vermissen, ist die, an seiner Seite zu stehen und zu wissen, dass er nie zu einem gehören wird.”