This Virtual Soldier's Speech Explains How to Have True Purpose in Life Cover

This Virtual Soldier’s Speech Explains How to Have True Purpose in Life

Humans are agents of change.

From the moment we are conceived, our body begins to evolve. It grows until we’re born, and then it grows some more. Our bones, cells, muscles, even our brains — they constantly renew themselves. Day after day, month after month, year after year. It all changes until it can’t change anymore.

In time, we start to decay. Decay, too, is change. It’s not a bad thing, you know? As Steve Jobs said, “Death is very likely the single best invention of life. It clears out the old to make way for the new.”

We don’t change just on the inside. Between birth and death, we change everything we interact with. We change nature, culture, and others. Throwing a rock is change. Discussing remote work is change. Patting a friend on the back is change. Even sleeping is change.

Change is the most human thing we do — and the most powerful way to enact change is through purpose.

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30 Lessons Learned in 30 Years of Life Cover

30 Lessons Learned in 30 Years of Life

Yesterday, I turned 30. When I was 18, I thought by 30, I’d have it made.

My 20s were a long, slow grind of realizing “made” does not exist. “Made” is past tense — but you’re never done! The only finish line is death, and, thankfully, most of us don’t see it until we’re almost there.

Instead of the binary made/not made distinction, I now see life as round-based. You win some, you lose some, and different rounds have different themes. There’s a carefree-childhood season, a teenager-trying-to-understand-society season, an exuberant-20-something season, and so on.

At 30 years old, I’ve only played a few seasons, but each round feels more interesting than the last. If that trend persists, I can’t imagine what one’s 60s or 90s must be like. By that time, you’ve seen so much — and yet, there’ll always be new things to see.

Most seasons last longer than a year, and there’s plenty to talk about with respect to the important, defining decade from 20 to 30 alone, but today, I’d like to do something different: I want to share one thing I’ve learned from each year I’ve been alive.

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If You’re Ambitious, Find a Hobby You Won’t Obsess About Cover

If You’re Ambitious, Find a Hobby You Won’t Obsess About

Peanutbeer. For most of 12th grade, I was in a heated competition with a guy named Peanutbeer. At least, that was his screen name on Xbox Live. His real name was Marc. He was the younger brother of one of my classmates.

Somehow, Peanutbeer and PandoraNiklas found themselves in a constant battle for Gamerscore supremacy. Who could beat the most games with the highest completion rate in the shortest period of time?

Each Xbox game offers up to 1,000 Gamerscore, points you get for beating the game on various difficulties and completing many, often hard-to-pull-off challenges. If you think video games are fun as they are, this extra layer of gamification will easily get you addicted. Besides optimizing each playthrough around garnering the most achievements, it also incentivizes you to try things in the game you otherwise wouldn’t have.

With Peanutbeer and me, it quickly became an 80/20 thing. We focused on getting the most bang for our buck, both literally and in terms of Gamerscore. We’d rent 2–3 games over the weekend (you didn’t have to pay for Sundays) and try to rack up as many points as possible. It was a blast.

By the time I graduated high school, I had amassed over 24,000 Gamerscore — the equivalent of beating 24 games to 100% completion. That’s nothing compared to world record holders with over two million points, but in our local Xbox community, no one came out ahead. No one, except Peanutbeer.

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If You Want to Be Happy, Make the World Small Cover

If You Want to Be Happy, Make the World Small

One of my favorite scenes in Man of Steel is when young Clark first discovers his powers at elementary school. His senses are hypersensitive and, by activating all at once, trigger a seizure.

Suddenly, he can see not just people’s appearance, but their insides, bones, organs. He can hear not just loud noise, but every noise, even tiny ones far away. Overwhelmed with all the impressions, he runs away and hides.

The whole class gathers outside the closet he’s locked himself in, but, ultimately, his mom must come to his rescue. At first, he won’t let her in.

“The world’s too big, Mom.”

But then, Martha Kent shares a piece of advice that could only ever make sense coming from a loving, compassionate mother:

“Then make it small.”

The Good Thing About Fame

A few days ago, I was looking for gameplay clips from Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey because, you know, procrastination. I found theRadBrad. After watching a few videos, I realized he has 9.8 million subscribers. That’s more than the entire population of Austria, Honduras, or Hungary.

I’m a gamer at heart. I’ve used Youtube for as long as it exists. And yet, I had never heard of theRadBrad, one of the biggest channels in this sector.

I guess it’s true. The world has become a big place. Or, maybe it always was.

Christianity has remained the world’s largest religion for the past 200 years. But it still covers just a third of our planet’s population. That means one of, maybe the most famous person in history — Jesus Christ — is someone most people have never heard of.

I think that’s a good thing. It’s soothing. The problem is I keep forgetting it.

All It Takes Is Pancakes

In an early How I Met Your Mother episode, Barney shares one of his most memorable quotes:

“You know what Marshall needs to do? He needs to stop being sad. When I get sad, I stop being sad and be awesome instead. True story.”

But, unless you can seamlessly switch from one irrational, emotional state to another, like Barney, that’s not so easy, is it? It sure wasn’t for Marshall. For 67 days after his breakup, he was a miserable, weeping puddle of his former self.

Every day, some new trigger would launch him into another nightmare about his ex. Where’s Lily? What is she doing? And with whom? Why that? Why now? Why there? Of course, none of his obsessive behavior gave any answers.

Eventually, after over two months, his roommates woke up to the smell of fresh pancakes. Marshall was over the hump. Why now? What changed?

The world was too big. And, finally, Marshall had made it small.

Pretend It’s an Island

I think most of my sadness is overwhelm in disguise. The world’s too big. I postpone all kinds of decisions until I do something stupid or extreme. As a result, I lose even more time, which only reinforces the cycle.

But it all starts with the fact that there’s too much of everything. Too many projects to tackle. Too many notifications to answer. Too many people to meet. Too many places to go. Too many shows to watch. Too many books to read.

I know I’ll never get to it all. So there’s always someone to disappoint. Even if it’s just myself. But it never fails to sting.

The only way I can ever move past this is by doing what Martha told Clark:

“Just focus on my voice. Pretend it’s an island, out in the ocean. Can you see it?”

“I see it.”

“Then swim towards it, honey.”

When the world’s too big, I have to forget it for a while. I have to start swimming.

The Only Thing We Can Do

On Nov 27th, 2006, Brad Colburn created a Youtube account. It had zero subscribers. Now, every time he launches another playthrough, he says:

“So guys it’s, uh, it’s kind of hard to start off these big games. ‘Cause I know that this series is gonna have a lot of people watching.”

No single human is meant to have an entire country follow them around. We’re tribal creatures. Not global citizens. No matter how much we wish we were. The sheer mental presence of more than a few dozen people is enough to cause serious anxiety. It’s a huge responsibility to shoulder.

So the best thing, the only thing, really, that RadBrad can do is to make another video. Just one. Pretend it’s an island. Start swimming. I don’t know Brad personally. But I can tell you, every time he forgets this, he feels sad and overwhelmed.

And when he remembers? He finds his way back to happy.

We’re All Clark Kent

The internet has made all of us hypersensitive. We’re all Clark Kent. We can see not just people’s appearance, but their insides, thoughts, emotions. We can hear not just loud noise, but every noise, even tiny ones far away.

And sometimes, it makes us want to run away and hide. When Marshall sifted through his ex-lover’s credit card transactions, his world was too big. Too many terrible fantasies. Too many alternatives to imagine. Only when he said “stop,” when he refused to engage with the noise, could he focus on what was right in front of him: two hungry friends.

If Superman existed, how long would it take until the whole world knows him? A month? A year? In any case, he better master his senses. Unlike him, however, we can turn off the noise. Disconnect. Get quiet.

What’s more, we’ll never carry quite as much responsibility. If we’re really lucky, how many people will follow us? A couple thousand? A few million? Still, most of the world will never know who we are. We’ll always stay small.

Remembering this smallness is where happiness lies. Forget the vastness that’s out there. It does nothing for you. Just focus on one voice. One friend. Make one video. And then do it again.

The world’s too big. Even for the best of us. Let’s carve out our own space. Make it small. Find your island. And then swim towards it.

What If Our Addictions Are What Makes Us Successful? Cover

What If Our Addictions Are What Makes Us Successful?

I have a theory:

Everyone’s addicted to something.

Not addiction in the clinical sense. I’m not talking about a chemical imbalance that might lead to substance abuse. That should be treated professionally.

When I say ‘addicted,’ I mean that you do something just a little more than you probably should. And even though sometimes that “just a little” isn’t all that little anymore, if you had a shrink, he wouldn’t recommend sending you to Shutter Island just yet.

Here’s an example: When I was 15, I was addicted to soccer tricks.

I would watch all the Nike commercials and try to copy the moves those guys had. For about three years, I spent three, four, sometimes eight hours a day outside or in our basement and practice. I found a community online and we had competitions. We filmed videos. And in Germany, we were the first few dozen people to kickstart this movement.

Always practicing.

Sadly, my knees are f*cked. Always have been, really. But putting constant pressure on my legs and jumping up and down on the tarmac didn’t help. So in 2008, I made a final video, then quit. I wasn’t forced to. It was a decision.

Here’s another example: When I was 18, I was addicted to video games.

I’ve been a gamer since I was 8. That’s when my parents gave me a Nintendo 64. I’ve played everything from Super Mario to Final Fantasy, from Pokémon to Call of Duty, from Warcraft to Blobby Volley. From 16 to 18, I spent my nights playing Counter-Strike on modded servers, trading items in Diablo 2, and kicking alien-ass in Halo sessions with friends.

But when I was 18, I really hit my stride. I bought an Xbox 360 and started chasing GamerScore. Every game had a maximum of 1,000 points you could score for achieving various things. Usually, that meant beating the story on all difficulty levels, completing side quests, pulling off certain stunts, kills, etc.

It’s the perfect system. On top of the flow experience you get from each individual game, you now have an incentive to play as many games as possible. What more, it allows for optimization, because you can focus on the 20% of tasks that give you 80% of the points, then move on. Sometimes, I would get 2–3 games from the video store on Friday, beat them all over the weekend, then return them Monday and pay 3–5 € per game. It was fun.

There was only one other guy in our city who did it as “professionally” as I did. I never caught up to him, but I was at 24,500 GamerScore before I quit. After my first semester at college, I realized it wasn’t a priority, so I sold my Xbox and that was that.

Do these things officially qualify as addiction? I don’t know. But in hindsight, I can tell you that’s exactly what they were. Because that’s what they felt like. They weren’t bad, crippling addictions. I enjoyed them. I was happy. But addictions nonetheless. From the outside, however, most people would have called them hobbies. Some might have called them excessive. But the one thing every person would have told you is that I was good at these things.

I was successful.

I have another theory:

All worldly success follows from channeling our addictions.

Let’s take your hypothetical friend John. John is the Fonz in your college class. He has the face of an angel and the tongue of a stand-up comedian. His hair falls in waves when he hops into his Camaro convertible and drives off. As a result, he always has two girls on every arm and a whole lot more chasing him. He gets more Tinder matches in a day than you get in three months.

As you would expect, John is constantly “going steady” with someone else. And when something does turn real, he disappears into his new relationship for a few months, only to emerge again at the fall term frat party with an empty passenger seat. In short: John’s got game out the wazoo.

To the outside world, John is successful. Men think he’s a hero, women desire him. Inside, however, John might be completely happy, completely miserable, or one or the other, depending on the time of day. We can’t know.

But even just looking from afar, if you strip away our various, often crooked definitions of success, you can see that John is simply addicted to love. Every aspect of it. No matter how much of this addiction is enabled through luck vs. conscious effort, it’s the lens he chooses to live his life through.

That’s not to say we can’t have multiple lenses. You can be a little addicted to love, a little to food, and a little to video games. As a result, you might be in a stable relationship, only slightly overweight, and halfway decent at Call of Duty. But it’s not as “productive,” to use the word in a perverted sense, as an all-out addiction to only one of the three.

Whatever messed up standard the world has to measure how successful you are at something, if you’re addicted to it, you’ll do just fine. The problem is that the world seems to have twisted standards for everything.

But is that really a problem, then?

I have one last theory: it’s all meant to be this way.

Addictions are the clips the universe puts on people’s wings, for if humans could fly, they’d be burned by the sun.

I don’t think people without these minor addictions exist. But I also don’t believe this mythical, balanced person is an ideal we’re meant to aspire to.

Excessively engaging with the world is our way of dealing with the ridicule of the cosmos. We’re dropped into this life knowing full well we can’t take anything out of it when it’s our time to leave — and we’re supposed to play nice? I don’t think so. I think we should cause all the ruckus we can.

What’s dangerous is when we let the world’s corrupted standards dictate where we spend our disproportionately allocated chunks of time. It’s okay for inner motivation to trigger our irrational dedication to something, but outer success can never be the reason to keep it around.

When I quit freestyling, that was me finding the strength to prioritize my health over being a pioneer. When I quit gaming, that was me forfeiting a competition where there was nothing to win except respect.

In the zone (2008).

These addictions were initially fueled by fun, but once the world pushed the right buttons, my ego took over and it became very easy to see my limitations. When that happens, the only answer is to let go. You’ll either find your way back or realize it was never the right addiction in the first place.

This isn’t meant to advertise this definition of ‘addiction.’ I’m not saying we should all dig our own rabbit holes. If you have your balance and like it, by all means, enjoy. What I am saying is that if you’re already down the burrow, don’t worry. Most of us are. Just don’t let the world shut you inside.

Me? Nowadays, I’m addicted to art. I work way more than I should and I can’t stop thinking of things I want to create. Sooner or later, the world will probably tell me that I’ll have to keep doing it in order to nail its definition of success. Whenever that happens, all I want is to remember why I started.

I hope I’ll be able to. I really like this one.

The Best Life Hack I've Ever Learned Cover

The Best Life Hack I’ve Ever Learned

In 2001, my biggest dream came true: I used my Christmas money to buy the brand new PlayStation 2.

It wasn’t a dream come true because it was new, or because of the latest games. I was excited because it meant I could finally play all of those old PlayStation 1 games I used to play at my neighbor’s house or sit next to and watch.

One of the first games I bought was, of course, Tomb Raider III. I got a used copy, because it was cheaper.

When I opened the case to take out the CD, a little piece of paper fell out, with some weird scribblings on it. It looked like this:

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