By Mike Pietrzak
Today I turn 42 and it’s become a tradition for me to share a number of my own personal learnings from the past year—about Life, the Universe, and Everything (wink).
2023 has been my best year in recent memory because of the radical transformation, learnings, and discoveries I’ve made, and so I’m especially eager to sprinkle these truth nuggets on you.
As always, I speak plainly, pull no punches, and fully expect that some will be triggered by this against-the-grain wisdom (I’m looking at you, Reddit!) If you feel triggered, unclench your sphincter, make a dignified argument about why I’m wrong in the comments, and just remember: these are my opinions, and pushing against anything only gives it power.
With that antagonistic disclaimer, I wish for you to find outrageous happiness in these 42 lessons!
Always take the (calculated) risk. I launched a new thing recently that flopped. It cost me some money and sidetracked my life for a month. But I have no regrets because I understand that experimentation and risk generate escape velocity from a life of mediocrity.
Be kinder than you need to be. Often I’ll disagree with my wife (or anyone else) and tell myself a story that she’s being completely unreasonable. Here I have a choice: to debate her and “win”, or to zoom out and see that my larger desire is for peace and harmony. And so I try to choose kindness over being right.
Stretching is underrated. As you sleep, your muscles tighten, blood flow can get restricted, and stretching is a great way to feel better and stay flexible.
Be flexible. Attaching to outcomes is the main source of misery. Allow yourself to change your mind and desires easily.
Alcohol just isn’t worth it. I was a heavy drinker for 25 years. I quit 2 years ago. The more I’m away from it, the more I see that alcohol has literally zero benefits. On the other hand...
Psychedelics can be a powerful healing tool. When done properly—that is to say in a controlled environment with a positive intention and trusted guide—plant medicines like ayahuasca and psilocybin can lead to profound insights. I have never been a drug guy, but I’ve had incredible transformations using these tools.
Porn is a complete waste of time. Masturbation from time to time has maaaany health benefits. But porn wreaks havoc, especially on men’s brains. It softens your tool, disconnects you from your partner, kills your sex drive, causes anxiety and depression, and deadens your sensitivity and desire. Banish that shit.
Always check references. I recently paid someone to handle Facebook ads for me. Their work was... substandard. Had I insisted on speaking to their past clients I might have avoided wasting a few thousand dollars.
Prioritize your friendships. As you mature, it’s harder to maintain friendships. Work at it anyway. The quality of your life is largely a function of how much and how often you enjoy the company of others. Make the effort.
Slippers are amazing. Warm feet are where it’s at. Ditto thick, soft sweatpants.
Invest in some quality pens to upgrade your life. They don’t have to be expensive. Try different kinds. Most pens totally suck and we’re not going to take it anymore!
Get outside every day. We didn’t evolve to sit indoors. Basking under sun and sky is great for the body, mind, and spirit.
Everything in your life is a result of your beliefs. Believe you’re shit? Wish granted. Believe you’re THE shit? Well then you can be, do, or have anything you want, and fairly quickly.
A belief is just a thought you keep on thinking. You’re not married to your beliefs, so if they’re not serving you well, just stop thinking that thing.
Gluten is the enemy. Since moving to the country I get weird looks from servers when I ask for gluten-free. But nobody should be eating it. Gluten saps your energy, causes brain fog, joint pain, skin issues, lower mood, trouble losing weight, and bloating. If you’re experiencing any of this, scrutinize gluten.
Eat Spartan for energy. I read a book (The Way of the Peaceful Warrior) where the hero fasted, then traded burgers and ice cream for raw vegetables. His mood swings, runny noses, lethargy, and brain fog were replaced with boundless energy. Guess what? It works!
Absolutely nothing matters (unless you make it matter). We live maybe 80 years on a spinning ball of lava hurtling around an exploding ball of hydrogen at 30 km per second, in an infinite and expanding universe (probably multiverse) that scientists think is 13.7 billion years old. And yet we complain about the gluten free options. Nothing you can do or not do really matters. Stop caring what your parents or your spouse or even YOU think, and just live free.
Everything matters. The paradox is that while nothing you can do or not do matters in the grand scheme (there is no grand scheme), what you do with your life is incredibly important to YOU because it is the only reality. Don’t waste this experience!
Laugh more. That sounds cute but last month I set a new standard to laugh more, even if it’s fake at first, and I can tell you that I feel like I’m coming alive again. God damn, I’ve missed laughing!
Don’t put up with bad behaviour. You teach people how to treat you, so gently but firmly tell people to cut that shit out.
You are your niche. If you have a business, don’t fret too much about finding the perfect niche. The WAY in which you deliver the thing is niche enough. So, be you.
Being different is your superpower. Those qualities that you hide or are kind of ashamed about? That’s what people are dying to see. That’s what will set you apart and lead to your fortune. Trying to emulate, fit in, and use “best practices” might be keeping you squarely in that mediocrity. Like Mark Twain said, “Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it is time to pause and reflect.”
Don’t be an expert. Be a master instead. An expert collects knowledge but doesn’t apply it. The master takes knowledge, applies it to his life, and internalizes it as body wisdom.
Be cautious of listening to experts. Use your intuition to discern truth from bullshit masquerading as wisdom. Experts often have an agenda that’s not compatible with your happiness.
Trust your inner wisdom. You’re wiser than you credit yourself for. You’ve lived x years and have a wealth of first-hand data and a finely-tuned internal guidance system that evolved over millennia. Always trust your gut over pure logic.
Post-secondary education might be a bad idea. If you want to learn a specific set of outdated facts, apply those to a career you can stay in for a few decades but that you’ll probably come to resent, college or university might serve you well. But if you want to be a free thinker who accomplishes the extraordinary, cultivate a love of learning instead of chasing a valueless piece of paper. I got 2 degrees, but have spent the last 20 years unlearning much of that indoctrination. Yes, I’m being over-dramatic and I will probably encourage my daughter to go to university... but make an informed decision.
Make time for your hobbies. They will reward you the deeper you go into them, and usually lead to unexpected fun, people, and adventures.
You are not your mind. Those thoughts constantly bubbling up? You are not those, but rather the witness of those. You’re something greater and more eternal—maybe a consciousness or a soul. Identifying too closely with your thoughts is hell on earth.
Stop resisting AI. It’s here to stay and it can be a wonderful upgrade to the human experience the way books, computers, and gluten-free bread have been. Don’t be a horse and buggy guy in a jetpack world.
The Universe is not sending you lessons. The idea that there’s some universal intelligence (God?) out there putting you through tests is kind of juvenile, and blatantly an idea that is STILL rooted in stone-age religions. The only discernible “purpose” of life is to experience it in whatever way YOU desire.
There’s no one right way to live. If you’re looking for a religion, philosophy, or science to tell you that this is right and this is wrong, you’ll keep searching endlessly until you realize that what you were looking for was inside you all along. Yes, that was deep.
Live with a broken heart. Has life or a girl/guy broken your heart? Good! With your heart cracked open you can experience everything fully.
There is no “one” person for you. There are probably 100 people in your small town who you could fall into a deep love affair with: fireworks, marriage, kids, triumph and disaster included. Attraction is not a choice... but love is. The quality of your relationship is determined by what you invest into it.
You don’t have a lot of time left. You have a terminal illness. It’s called birth. You can choose to be happy NOW or waste another year squawking about conspiracy theories or family drama.
Happiness is a choice. The same goes for depression or any other negative emotion. “Ah, but my suffering is uniquely intractable.” No it’s not. You simply haven’t learned how to control your mind and process your emotions in a way that generates happiness. You can learn, but it starts with a determined choice to be happy.
Therapy can be dangerous. Therapists mean well and they’re good people. I’ve benefited greatly from therapy. But a constant focus on the negative; diagnosing people with made-up disorders; over-sympathizing; encouraging victimhood under the guise of “holding space”—all of this keeps people stuck for YEARS. You’ve given enough attention to your suffering, now turn your attention to the life you want.
Baths are highly underrated. Like sweatpants, I lived for years without owning a bathtub. These days not a week goes by where I don’t enjoy a scalding hot soak. It’s my best thinking time and a miracle for the body.
Make your toddler go to the potty before getting in the bath together. Enough said.
Don’t be afraid to quit—specifically bad books or movies, but also bad relationships, a meal, whatever. Your time and attention are precious and don’t waste an ounce of it on something repulsive.
Don’t put up Christmas lights if you don’t want to. This season I was poised to head outside to get up on the ladder in the rain to hang lights. I was pretty grumpy about it. Then I realized: I’m only doing it because it’s a cultural expectation. So I stopped and did something I loved instead. You win this round, neighbours!
Come back to love quickly. Experiencing negative emotion is inevitable. Nobody should judge you for losing your cool, running away, or experiencing unbridled joy. These are simple reflexes. But once the tidal wave of emotion recedes, now you have a conscious choice: do I spiral and make it worse, or consciously choose love?
Hard work is futile. And I’ve saved my favourite for last. “Don’t work hard, you say? But that’s what my parents/school/society/religion taught me to do!!!” Again, sphincter. I’m not advocating indolence. Instead, I’m suggesting you try to find work that doesn’t feel like work. By all means, put 12 hours a day into your project but whenever it feels “hard” (AKA like suffering), stop. Rest. Whenever you’re in a state of hustle or grind, pushing uphill, battling, competing, raging against the machine, “showing them” or whatever brutalist energy you bring to the task—stop! Know that working from a negative state will only lead to negative (or atleast suboptimal) results. Ah, but work with joy and passion? In the flow? With love? Now you’re fucking unstoppable, more powerful than millions of the white-knuckling masses combined.
Now go forth and be awesome.
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