The Harsh Secrets of "Lifestyle Design"
"The reason to win the game is so that you can be free of it." - Naval
Most people close to me would say that I’m a bit of a grump, but I still consider myself to be extremely optimistic.
The optimism is new, though. I haven’t always believed that the world was a good place.
When I was younger, my only dream was to be a professional athlete. Then, I wanted to be a movie director or a storyteller of some kind. At the time of conception, however, both of these dreams seemed impossible to achieve. You can’t learn about either of these jobs from a booth at a career fair or by watching a few YouTube videos.
As a result, I felt aimless in my career. As a senior in high school, I only could foresee that adulthood for me was going to be a constant struggle.
I was right, but that’s also a great oversimplification. In reality, I’ve been able to sort of build my own “career” by being consistent, ambitious, and resourceful.
Here’s the loose blueprint that I’ve followed and some hard lessons I’ve learned along the way.
The good life is not the “good” life.
The picture used for this article is a bit misleading.
In this picture, I’m on vacation with my girlfriend in Burano, a small town just outside of Venice. We went for gelato after this picture was taken, then a romantic walk along the Venice canals, then we drank some Aperol Spritz, and then the next day, we continued our trip by traveling to the Amalfi Coast — one of my favorite places in the entire world.
The picture (and the pictures used in most of my recent articles) indicate that I live this wild, travel-filled life, where I’m constantly on adventures, drunk on either love or fancy cocktails or fine food, and somehow still a high-level martial artist and a very productive writer.
The highlight reel makes it seem like the good life is all about consuming as much as you can and doing as much as you can.
That’s not what I think at all.
In my opinion, the good life is about creation. The creation of experiences. The creation of art. The creation of ideas — good ones. The creation of inspiration — through action. If you want to be rewarded for what you do, you need to provide something of value to others.
Don’t be distracted by the noise. The vacation pictures that you see and maybe get you to think “I want to go there!” are not the part of this lifestyle that allows me to live this lifestyle.
I travel and live an interesting life because of the sacrifices that I’ve made to live life almost entirely on my terms, despite the consequences. If you want to live “the good life”, you need to live a disciplined life.
The road to the place that you want to go has elements of suck.
Nothing is perfect.
When I was around 20, I saw the life that my Jiu-Jitsu coach was living and how happy he was, and I told myself that I “needed a job where I was in a gi all day”. This was what I had to have to be happy. It was my only way out of “misery”.
The irony is not lost on me that now that, although I do Jiu-Jitsu full-time, I only have one gi on my property and I don’t even wear it. But either way, I was motivated from a fairly young age to try and monetize my passions.
Trying to do Jiu-Jitsu for a living and then later trying to write for a living taught me a great deal about lifestyle design, but perhaps the most important lesson has been that no passion project will be easily taken seriously by others. The early days will be rough.
When I first started doing Jiu-Jitsu and training “full-time”, I was still going to college, doing odd jobs and internships on the side, and trying to train 6–7 days per week, 2–3 times per day. Despite all this effort, I was still “ just a blue belt”. I had nothing to really offer, and I wasn’t taken seriously by my peers, not even really by myself.
Likewise, when I started writing, my articles were not very good. They were formatted poorly, they were long and at times incoherent, and the possibility of me earning an income as a writer seemed, in the early days, to be very grim. I had a better chance of joining the circus.
So how did I get past that?
In both instances, I worked my butt off, for a really long time. I still work my butt off, every single day. If I don’t work my butt off, I don’t eat and I can’t pay rent, much less travel to exciting places like Burano or the Amalfi Coast.
I worked my ass off, learned soft skills like networking and social media, I got lucky, I put myself out there more than most people ever will, and I still do all these things to this day. This, in my opinion is what it takes to maximize your ability to customize your daily life.
You have to surround yourself with people who know what’s possible.
Most of the time, the goals I set for myself border on insane. Sometimes I feel silly sharing them out loud.
At first, I wanted to become one of the top grapplers in the world in my weight class. After finishing 3rd in Europe a month ago (at a new, bigger weight class) and in the top 16 in North America last weekend, I think I can honestly say that I have accomplished that goal. My athletic goals are nowhere near complete, but I honestly believe that I’m on the right track and doing the right things. When I’m done with competitive Jiu-Jitsu, I aim to have no regrets.
That goal was achieved I believe mostly by surrounding myself with people who are above my current skill level. In the training room that I’m currently in every day, there’s no speculation about what it takes to reach the top of the game. There’s a collective, objective understanding and work done every day to reach that goal.
Achieving my goals in writing and personal finance, however, has been a bit harder. I don’t surround myself and talk to really successful writers on a daily basis. Writing is a bit more of a lonely endeavor.
However, I do have the internet, and it’s really a hell of a resource if you know how to use it. On sites like Twitter and Substack, I only really follow and subscribe to people who are either deeply important to me or who I feel can teach me something valuable about what I want to achieve. I only (mostly) follow people who are a few steps ahead of me in the process that I am undertaking myself.
Beyond that, pretty much everyone gets muted. I don’t see any noise on my social platforms, just positivity and education. Today we have the ability to customize the nature of pretty much everything that we consume online, and yet most people do not do this.
I don’t surround myself with bitter people. I don’t surround myself with distracted people. I have tunnel vision in learning the things I aim to learn.
I highly recommend this to anyone looking to improve the amount of control they have over their life.
I’ve been struggling a bit recently.
In July, I moved down to Austin, Texas to train Jiu-Jitsu. Not to teach, not “for work”, and not for anything else other than to get better training for the 2023–24 ADCC cycle. This has been a costly move — literally, it’s expensive.
Ironically, the struggle of trying to make ends meet while moving forced me to travel more than I wanted to for seminars and other endeavors, which I believe negatively impacted my training for the ADCC Trials last weekend. I was trying so hard to get this new move to “work” that I couldn’t actually work on myself and what I wanted to work on.
But I don’t see that as a personal failure as much as I see it as a lesson learned. In the process of trying to exit the common lifestyle in modern society, there will certainly be hiccups. Moments of error. Moments where you’re strung out, beaten down, and misunderstood.
Moments where giving up feels like the only logical solution.
But here’s the part that they don’t tell you:
If you simply don’t quit, your odds of success are infinitely higher than someone who does — because their odds are zero.
Do with that information what you must.
In the last 2 weeks I’ve gotten sick twice, been traveling and doing seminars, cut 15 pounds, competed in the biggest BJJ tournament of the year, and filmed my next BJJ instructional.
Now that I’m back in Austin, I’m finally back to work on writing every day.
If you’d like to read my recent premium article reflecting on the Trials, you can do so below. Another premium article will be available on Sunday morning.
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