Entrepreneur and angel investor Naval Ravikant advises that young people should be spending more time making the big decisions: where you live, who you’re with, and what you do.
These three things will pretty much determine the quality and trajectory of our lives. Sometimes we find ourselves going with the flow, entering relationships that we aren’t 100% sure of, spending a lot of time doing a job but spending so little time deciding which job would be best for us. And usually the place we decide to live in will determine who we meet and which jobs are mostly available too.
Once we decide these three things we can be much more intentional with our lives instead of being taken whichever way the wind is blowing.
Richard Koch writes in his book The 80/20 Principle some daily and medium-term stratagems for happiness. Unlike money which can be saved and spent later, happiness is experienced in the Now and the more happiness we experience day-to-day sets up us for happiness going forward.
Koch’s Daily Happiness Habits
Spiritual/artistic stimulation or meditation
Doing something for another person or people
Taking a pleasure break with a friend
Giving yourself a treat
Congratulating yourself on a day’s worthwhile living
Koch’s Medium-term Stratagems for Happiness
Maximize control in your life. This could come in the form of self-employment for example, and usually requires planning and some risk-taking. Those that lack autonomy in life usually end up stressed or bored.
Set attainable goals. Goals that are too easy lead to complacency, and those that are unrealistic lead to demoralization. Attainable goals give us something to stretch to and keep us stimulated. Err on the soft side when setting goals. Remember that hitting goals is good for happiness!
Be flexible. Chance events tend to interfere with expectations, and it’s our job to do the best we can do given the situation. Goals and strategy may change and the more ready we are to take the challenge on, the happier we will be.
Have a close relationship with your partner. Koch reminds us that the happiness of your partner will have a huge bearing on your mood too, and vice versa. In that case, choosing your partner is one of the most important decisions to be made in life – teaming up with an unhappy partner is likely to lead to you being unhappy too. This also highlights your own happiness you bring to the relationship, since it’s just as bad to be bringing your partner’s happiness down too.
Have a few happy friends. Most of your happiness will usually derive from a small number of friends. Make sure you are spending the most time with the friends that give you energy and happiness.
Have a few close professional alliances. You shouldn’t be friends with all your work colleagues, but it makes sense to be close friends with a few of them. Not only could this help with your career, it also increases the pleasure you take from the time you spend at work.
Evolve your ideal lifestyle. An ideal lifestyle is unique to each of us. Consider where you’d need to live and who with, what kind of work you’d be doing, and how much time is allocated to family, socializing and hobbies. An ideal life would be one where we are equally happy at work and outside of work.
Before I read The 4-Hour Workweek by Tim Ferriss in 2017, I was a small-thinker. Although I was having a great time traveling in Australia, I had spent the previous year in New Zealand thinking I was working too much. I worked as a car cleaner for a car rental company. The lunchroom crossword-solving, workshop banter and $16/hour barely cancelled out the monotony of up to 60 hours per week of vacuuming, wiping, spraying, and brushing. The words “lunchtime” and “hometime” that my boss would shout will be forever etched in my memory, producing a rush of elation as I was freed from my task. Whenever I was at work, I felt completely replaceable. I felt like I was watching an hourglass, the sand falling continuously, me as a powerless bystander who couldn’t stem the flow.
I happened to be in a bookshop on the east coast of Australia when my travel buddy threw me a book. “I think you’ll like this one,” he said nonchalantly. I think it was probably because he thought I was lazy, and four hours of working per week definitely sounded better than 60 hours! I put the book back on the shelf, but by the time I got on the bus to resume my trip down the coast, I had already downloaded a free PDF copy of the book and started reading.
As I scrolled through the pages, my paradigm completely shifted. Wait, you can actually have a life where you can do whatever you want?
In The 4-Hour Workweek, Ferriss outlines the idea of “Lifestyle Design”. He introduces the concept of the “New Rich”, who value time and mobility over money, and live their ideal life during what would traditionally be their most productive working years, instead of deferring their ideal life for retirement.
“Life doesn’t have to be so damn hard. It really doesn’t. Most people, my past self included, have spent too much time convincing themselves that life has to be hard, a resignation to 9-to-5 drudgery in exchange for (sometimes) relaxing weekends and the occasional keep-it-short-or-get-fired vacation.“
People don’t actually want to be millionaires, they just want the freedom that they think $1,000,000 in the bank will allow them. But if most people were to sit down and design the life where they’d be happiest and most fulfilled, they’d probably find that they would need a lot less than seven figures.
I enjoyed the rest of my 60-day trip down the east coast of Australia, and ended up in Melbourne where I started to design my “ideal life”.
I spent a small portion of my day matched betting on my laptop to trying to keep up with the extortionate expense of living in Melbourne, but most of my time was spent reading books, playing snooker, playing table tennis with the university students, and eating delicious food.
This new lifestyle was enjoyable, and it was different to the life I had in New Zealand. Soon enough I learned that it was possible to get bored of snooker, and replaced the time I spent in the snooker club with time in the gym. Eventually, my bank account whittled down to the point where I needed some extra income, and I got a job for two months as a B2B lead generator for a solar energy company.
This period of my life was a vital learning experience. By testing out my ideal life by having a “mini-retirement”, I could decide whether it was actually my ideal life. I’m sure some people get a shock when they retire with a hefty sum in their savings, only to feel lost when they realize the ideal life that they worked toward for decades isn’t what they thought.
My work experience placements in an accounting office when I was 15, and in a physiology lab at 20, were examples in my life of testing ideal jobs. Had I not discovered that they didn’t suit me, I may have ended up in positions that were “too secure to throw away”, drudging through my career, just waiting for it to end.
I believe our ideal lives change as time goes on. It’s so difficult to know what the future version of ourselves will want, as described in Stumbling on Happiness by Daniel Gilbert. I believe it’s okay to immerse yourself in a lifestyle, enjoy it, and then change it when it no longer serves you.
I’m grateful that in the last five years I have managed to live many lifestyles in many different parts of the world. As a child growing up, I never would have believed the journey that life has taken me on to this point. In another few years from now, I wonder if my current self will believe the latest chapter of the journey?
The point of The 4-Hour Workweek is not to turn everyone into a digital nomad who outsources their weekly tasks to their virtual assistant while sipping cocktails in Bali. It is to ask the reader to design their life instead of letting society design it for them.
As Annie Dillard wrote in her book The Writing Life, “How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.”
Whenever I see Donavin Rudnicki, I can tell when he’s up to no good. His blue eyes sharpen, and one eyebrow raises a bit more than the other. A half-smirk starts to form on his face. Donnie is a prankster, a YouTuber, and probably the best wingman you can have on a night out. He will walk up to a group of attractive women, and within seconds be captivating their attention while directing you to join in and then diverting all the positive attention to you. One of the first times I saw Donnie he was talking to a girl on the street, and she was smiling, playing with her hair and fully engaged. At 25 years of age, Donnie has slept with over 200 women. So when I met Donnie recently, I wanted him to share his thoughts on what he’s learned about how to attract women.
Donnie made a light joke when I remarked that he was probably the best pick-up artist I have seen. Donnie doesn’t take himself too seriously. Some of his pranks on his YouTube channel have me cringing on how embarrassing they are, including him wearing a thong out in public, and reading pick-up lines to unsuspecting people from a book borrowed from the library. He’s confident, funny and charismatic, but it wasn’t always that way. “Growing up I was the shyest kid in the world, I was literally the kid with the sweater vest. I never talked to a girl through high school,” Donnie explained. It was only when he started to read different books on how to talk to girls, and watch tutorial videos on Facebook that he started to build his confidence talking to girls. He would approach cute girls he saw in the supermarket. “I realised that a big part of it is confidence. If you don’t have the confidence you kind of have to fake it until you make it.”
I’m sure a lot of men never approach cute girls in the supermarket, but most probably wish they had enough confidence to do so. “For me it’s just being really authentic with women. No matter what, it’s never going to get easier to talk to a girl, but if I was feeling shy or not too brave, I would say ‘honestly, I don’t normally do this, I’m a really shy person but you’re adorable and I had to come say hi or I would regret it’. Putting yourself out there and being vulnerable like that can mean a lot to the right girl.”
“Putting yourself out there and being vulnerable like that can mean a lot to the right girl.”
But what if confidence or courage was lacking so much that this would induce feelings of nausea and panic? Where can someone like that start? Donnie has sympathy for people like that, and after all this used to be him. He understands that no-one ever gets taught how to talk to girls in school, and that romance films are unrealistic. “Don’t even focus on the girl right now,” Donnie advises. “Some of the times I met the cutest girls, I wasn’t even focusing on girls. I would be talking to the person at the cash register, the old lady on the street, or asking a stranger for the time. Eventually you realise that talking to a girl is like talking to a buddy of yours or your grandma, it’s not that big of a deal.” It seems like just by becoming familiar with talking to and being around attractive women, even the shyest men will eventually get used to it.
“Some of the times I met the cutest girls, I wasn’t even focusing on girls.”
A few quirky pick-up lines can be a good idea too. “You can’t just say hey do you want to fuck,” Donnie clarifies. “You have to say a funny pick-up line to differentiate from all the guys that say ‘hey can I buy you a drink, or hey do you come here much?’ It intrigues them and then you’re open to have a conversation where they’re going to be more receptive.”
But what about texting? It’s something that every modern man in the dating scene has to contend with. How can a man not regularly get ‘ghosted’ by women that are texting ten guys at the same time? Donnie says it’s all about relating the text message to the conversation you initially had when you got their number. “You don’t want to say ‘hi, how are you, how’s your day going’, you have to be a little bit more fun. You don’t want them to look at the message, you want them picturing the person they were talking to before. Girls will appreciate you working a bit harder, standing out.”
So say if you can talk to an attractive girl, how do you get from an enjoyable conversation to going in for a kiss? “There’s a thing called indicators of interest, like if you’re talking to a girl and she’s playing with her hair, she is touching your arm, or if you’re physically close with the girl. Eye contact is huge, you will never kiss a girl without eye contact. It triggers something within them deep in the evolutionary part of their brain. If they’re looking down at your lips, then they’re thinking about kissing you.” At that point you should just lean in and go for it.
“You will never kiss a girl without eye contact.”
We then started talking about why so many men seem to have trouble with women. “A big part of it comes from being dependent on a female for their own happiness. A lot of guys don’t have their shit together.” Donnie explains that the basics for any guy is to go to the gym, eat healthily, wake up at good times and build good habits. “If you go on a date and she finds out you just masturbate and watch porn all the time, have no friends or social circle, don’t do anything… how would you feel if you met a girl that was kind of overweight and had nothing going for her? You wouldn’t be attracted to her either. Once you start getting your shit together, your confidence will come. Girls will see that and they will be more receptive to you. You have to slowly build your life up and work on yourself.”
“How would you feel if you met a girl that was kind of overweight and had nothing going for her? You wouldn’t be attracted to her either.”
One of the biggest things that is destroying masculinity and sex drive is the modern day is masturbation and pornography. “There’s a thing called instant gratification,” Donnie starts. “Watching porn teaches people instant gratification.” And this isn’t the type of thing men want to learn. “It’s unrealistic, it’s unnatural, so it is really damaging young men. As for masturbation, a lot of your testosterone and confidence is built up [from refraining from masturbation]. Every time you masturbate you’re throwing that [confidence] away. Refraining from masturbation will teach your mind to be a lot more confident and a lot more focused. You can use the built up sexual energy in other areas of your life. In the book ‘Think and Grow Rich’ by Napoleon Hill, there’s a chapter on that,” recalls Donnie. “Every time you masturbate you subconsciously tell your mind you have passed your genes on when you haven’t.”
“Every time you masturbate you subconsciously tell your mind you have passed your genes on when you haven’t.”
Like any regular guy, Donnie has been in love. But he also has important lessons for anyone who has dealt with rejection and break-ups. “I fell head over heels with her. Things ended pretty shortly after it began. I thought I loved her a lot, and it was really hard getting back out there. I think the biggest thing is just realising that there are more girls out there and she wasn’t the one for me.”
Donnie is happy that he took the courage and time to become better than most men at attracting women. “It’s definitely given me a lot of confidence, so if I meet the right girl, I am in a better position [than if I didn’t have the experience]. The way Donnie sees it is that he is willing to have 10,000 rejections in order to find and attract the woman of his dreams. “It’s not your fault if you’re not good at attracting women, but it is your duty to get better at it”.
“It’s not your fault if you’re not good at attracting women, but it is your duty to get better at it”.
In the end, Donnie believes the most important part about attracting women has nothing to do with women. “If you’re unhappy with your job and your life, [she] can tell right away so a big thing would be to be more honest with yourself. Look for a job or career that you want to do for the rest of your life and go for it. Go on an adventure, be more daring.” In our conversation Donnie has used the word ‘purpose’ several times. “Find your purpose. She has to know that no matter what happens, you know what you want and you can be a good provider and she will be taken care of spiritually, emotionally, physically. Have your shit together enough so that you exude that, and it will make a world of difference.”
You can find more of Donnie on YouTube @DonDoIt and on Instagram @don.do.it. What are your biggest struggles with attracting women? What the best things you’ve done to attract women?
Human psychology is dumb. Why is it that most of us chow down on unhealthy foods, and refuse to exercise knowing that one day this is going to come back to bite us? We really are creatures of comfort, preferring to binge-watch Netflix on the couch instead of actually moving our bodies and looking after ourselves. What would it take to step back, take a long hard look ourselves, and decide to change our poor lifestyle choices? Luckily, it feels to me that more and more people are taking action and taking care of their health and fitness in recent times. This is my personal story of how I transformed my weak, inactive “nerd body” to something much more athletic.
Up until last year I had only been to the gym a little more than a handful of times in my life. I didn’t enjoy it, and it was expensive. Why would I pay to do an activity I didn’t enjoy? It was painful, and I couldn’t understand why anyone would enjoy that burning feeling in the muscles that you get when you lift a weight. Besides, I was playing table tennis regularly, and occasionally having a skateboard session. I even walked around a snooker table for a couple hours a day too. Surely that’s enough physical recreation to keep a 25-year-old man fit and healthy? Evidently, I still had a lot to learn. I was doing my best to ignore little signs that my health and fitness was declining. I was getting ill more often, my digestion was poor, and my weak body was stopping me from participating from certain activities. For instance, I barely played any tennis anymore since I couldn’t perform an overhead service action without shoulder pain. My knees started aching when I went skateboarding, and my achilles hurt if I ran too much. The funniest part is, I just thought it was an inevitable part of life. At some point in your mid-twenties, you reach peak physical shape. After that it starts declining until you eventually die. Isn’t that the way life works? This was the way I was living – in a vicious circle of inactivity to avoid pain and injury. Luckily at the time, I was living and travelling with a certified gym nut. He would go to the gym almost daily, and hounded me to go with him for about a month. Eventually, I agreed, under the condition that he would sneak me in for free.
The false start
The first workout, I just blitzed my body. I performed each set to failure, and it was painful, just like I always remembered working out at the gym to be. My body was wrecked and achy and I couldn’t go again for another five days, when I just did the same thing. After the third or fourth workout, the staff at the gym found out that my friend was sneaking me in after hours and said that I would have to buy a gym membership. That was the best thing that could have happened, and since I joined the gym I would have to go more often to get my money’s worth.
Getting up to speed
I started to go five or six times a week. By this point I had honed in on my weekly schedule. Monday through to Sunday I planned my sessions in this order: Legs, Chest, Back, Shoulders, Calisthenics (sometimes), High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT). This body split allowed me to work around my delayed onset muscle stiffness (DOMS). For example, I knew after doing my leg workout that I wouldn’t have to do another one for at least six days, and I could work out my upper-body during the time I was recovering. Here are the main exercises I performed in the gym: Legs: Squat (front and back), deadlift (regular and sumo), dumbbell lunge, leg press. Chest: Bench press, incline dumbbell press, decline dumbbell press, cable flyes, dips (weighted). Back: Lat pulldown (wide grip), seated row, bent over dumbbell row, pull-up, inverted row Shoulders: Military press, dumbbell shoulder press, lateral dumbbell raises. Calisthenics: pull-ups, dips, L-sit (on a dip bar), back extensions. HIIT: A mixture of jump squat, box jump, broad jump, sprints, handstand hold, plank, high knees, mountain climber, bear crawl, push up, pull up, burpees. Rep ranges were 6-8 for most sets, and HIIT sessions would be three sets of a 9-exercise circuit of 45 seconds on/ 15 seconds rest, with three minutes between sets. I would also incorporate about 20 minutes of basic stretching at the end of each workout. I logged each workout and in the first month I had 12 gym sessions. In the second month I recorded 25 gym sessions. Here are before and after photos.
What I ate
I made an effort to reduce refined sugar intake. Other than that, I didn’t change my diet much. My go-to meal was roasted chicken drums or thighs with steamed mixed vegetables. Sometimes I added some mixed beans in. When I went out for dinner, I didn’t change my eating habits. I just chose whatever I wanted. My diet was already high in meat consumption so I didn’t consume any protein supplements or any other workout supplements. Here are some of the lessons I learned during this two-month period.
Sport isn’t the same as exercise.
One of the distinctions I learned during this period is that the effect of sport on the body is not the same as the effect of exercise on the body. I can’t think of any sport (other than weightlifting) that would produce the same kind of body transformation as what this gym program did. That said, participating in sport without gym workouts beats complete inactivity.
Think in terms of body recomposition instead of weight loss/gain.
So many people (myself included) focus on weight goals when they start working out. They want to lose or gain a certain amount of pounds or kilos, and are overly attached to this goal. I kept a close eye on my weight throughout the training period. At the start I was 59 kg (130 lbs) and by the end my weight was fluctuating between 59 kg and 62 kg (130-137 lbs), so there was no discernible weight change. While most people know that when they work out most of the strength gained is the consequence of more muscle mass (hypertrophy), not many people think about the amount of fat that they shed too. As a result, those who are looking to gain or lose weight get frustrated that the number on the scale isn’t changing quick enough. Instead, they should be focusing on increases in strength and endurance that they are making, indicating that there are positive changes occurring in the body.
Write as much as possible.
I found that logging each workout in terms of how many sets/reps of each exercise were done (and at which weight) was really beneficial to getting more out of the workouts. Memory alone would not be good enough to remember these parameters, so it was useful before the workout to see what I had done the previous week on the same body split. That way, I could make sure I progressed in one way or another during the session, instead of trying to work out how much weight I could lift each time.
Almost never go 100% effort.
In hindsight, I know that my early workouts where I went to failure with each set were a bad idea. Not only is it painful, it is really taxing on the body. The amount of hydrogen ions produced in the muscle can get to a dangerous level, meaning that not only could I not work out for the next five days due to muscle stiffness, I was potentially making it very difficult for the muscle to grow too and putting my body under a lot of stress. Not many people would disagree that doing the same workout at 75% effort each day for the five days would achieve a greater result than one session at 100% followed by four days of rest. Another reason I didn’t go 100% is so that I could achieve a progression in weight/reps in the next workout. Nowadays, the only time I would personally go 100% is for competition or testing, which is rare.
Make your workout as fun as possible.
Most people don’t go to the gym simply because they don’t enjoy it, not because they deliberately want their body to lose all strength, function and mobility. I knew that to get the maximum compliance to the program I was planning on doing, I had to make the workouts as fun as possible. I chose to do my favourite exercises in each body split while discarding the ones I didn’t like. I didn’t work to failure, making it less painful and keeping myself fresh for the next workout. I also incorporated new skills like L-sits and handstand holds into my workout to give me the novelty of learning something new.
Exercise for the right reasons.
Before immersing myself into a regular workout program, I knew I needed to outline the reasons to work out. A weight goal or appearance goal would cause impatience and a craving for quick results. I still kept an eye on these things regularly, but I did not base the success of my program on these things. Instead I decided that one of the reasons I would be working out was to be able to learn to muscle up (an exercise on a pull-up bar where a pull-up transitions into a bar dip on the top of the bar), so I would need to increase my strength in order to achieve this goal. Another reason was to remain injury-free and increase my mobility so that I could increase performance while playing sport. In the end, I defined success as simply just going to the gym. Any time I went to the gym, no matter what happened in the workout, I would view it as a success.
Get to know how your own psychology works to destroy your excuses.
How do you hack your brain to want to go to the gym? I realize that everyone is different, so everyone has to think about their own psychology and how they make decisions. Are they more likely to skip gym if they planned to go after work or before work? Do they always bail on leg workouts? Incorporate leg exercises into each workout. Workout buddy always bails on you? Go alone. Personally, I knew that making the workout fun and not exerting myself were keys to getting me to go to the gym. The promise of a nice meal after the workout, as well as living close by to the gym, and having a gym-going roommate were factors that helped to get me to the gym more often. I also followed lots of Instagram profiles of calisthenics athletes who were performing muscle-ups so that I could be reminded of reasons why I should keep to my planned workout schedule.
You don’t need to do crunches and leg raises to get a visible six-pack.
Abdominal workouts are easily my least favourite, so I didn’t do any targeted abdominal work. Even so, I still managed a pretty impressive body transformation and more visible abs. For anyone with a goal of “getting abs”, I would focus on diet. Consider reducing carb and sugar intake, or intermittent fasting (although I didn’t fast during this training period). In terms of actual exercises, I believe sprinting, interval training, and HIIT sessions to be valuable since the rectus abdominis (six-pack muscles) is the main muscle used in a forced exhalation. On top of that, try to engage your core in exercises where most people don’t, like performing push-ups or pull-ups in the hollow body position. However, if training for strength, then core muscles should definitely be trained, since core strength will help with any big lift.
I didn’t know how unhealthy I was until I became healthy.
Looking back at old photos, I did not see how much my appearance was declining at the time. My face was fat, my skin was bad, my muscle tone was non-existent. Only when I started working out did I realise that I was light years away from peak physical shape, and it was no wonder I was getting injured and sick all the time. The good news is, it wasn’t even very difficult to get into half-decent shape. Obviously, everyone is different. Someone who is in worse physical condition than I was may think they’re too far gone so their health and fitness will never go back to the way it was when they were young, but in my opinion it’s never too late to start being more active.
Conclusion: Exercise, have fun, and never stop.
Overall, the I found the keys to successful body recomposition are to partake in focused exercise instead of/alongside sport, and to do it consistently over a period of time. Be in it for the long haul by having fun and not working too hard, as health and fitness is a continuous, lifelong journey and not just a remedy for poor health. Think of the times you have been sick or injured, and how much that affected the rest of your life – work, relationships, self-esteem etc. Why wait for it to happen before you finally decide to achieve the health and fitness you want?