18 Ways to Radically Transform Your Life
A letter for my 18-year-old self.
Last week, I turned 25.
I spent some time reflecting last week, and I had a weird realization.
I realized that for the most part, right now, I’m very happy.
When I was 18, on the other hand, I was not happy.
I’d only been doing Jiu-Jitsu (the sport I’d later become a pro at) for about 5 months. I’d never written anything other than a few essays in school. My only friends were my high school friends, and I had just split from my high school girlfriend because I was headed off to college.
Being 18 was confusing. There was a lot going on in many different directions, and I had no idea where any of it was leading.
That’s why, if I could back in time, I would immediately force my 18-year-old self to do these things right away. It would have made me so much happier so much quicker.
1. Delete all your social media — for at least 6 months.
Social media isn’t great for anyone, but for young people, social media is like poison.
If I had taken a significant break from social media during my early 20s, it would have made me happier and less anxious, but most importantly, it would have made me much more grounded in the world that I was slowly learning about.
Given that I later experienced dissociation due to severe anxiety, this would have been nice.
2. Go to therapy.
Men especially don’t talk enough about mental health.
The best way to get over that hump is to go to therapy and force yourself into a situation where all there is to talk about is mental health.
3. Start a side hustle — just one.
When I was in college and trying to make it as a professional martial artist, I was obsessed with trying to find ways to monetize activities in my life.
I tried everything from blogging to flipping my old martial arts gear to teaching private lessons to ghostwriting riflescope reviews.
None of them were successful, in part because I wasn’t serious about any of them.
Pick one side hustle and do it well.
4. Start getting comfortable with social rejection.
After my first breakup, I was so scared to date that I didn’t ask anyone out for 3 years. I was too scared.
This 3 year period did a lot more damage to my social life than that breakup ever could have.
Learning to accept and bounce back from social rejection will give you the ability to navigate all of the most beautiful aspects of the human experience.
5. Learn how to eat properly.
Wrestling definitely gave me a strange relationship with food.
“Eating disorder” isn’t the right word, but from the time I was 14-20, I weighed myself 5–10 times per day. I was obsessed with monitoring my weight, and this obsession had a negative effect on both my physical and mental health.
This is why now, my physical is very important to me.
6. Prioritize your sleep.
The dumbest things I did in college weren’t going to some party or skipping classes or almost dropping out after every semester.
I did those things, but they didn’t really impact my life that much.
The dumbest thing that I did in college that actually impacted me was that I developed a habit of trying to sleep 6 hours per night while also trying to maintain peak performance.
When you’re 18, you can away with things. When you’re in your early 20s, you think you can get away with the things you got away with at 18. Quicker than you think, not sleeping catches up to you.
At 25, 7–9 hours of sleep every night is essential for me.
7. Commit to reading 25 books per year.
I’m a slow reader. I’ll never be someone who reads a book a week.
However, a few years ago (2020), I made a commitment to read at least 25 books every single year. 2 years later, I’m still going strong.
If I had started this habit at 18, I’d have read at least 175 books by now.
8. Start writing online.
Writing is the single most positive ROI habit that I’ve ever adopted.
Writing has given me a job, an audience, and peace of mind.
At 18, I had an urge to tell stories, but I thought I didn’t have the “life experience” to tell stories worth reading. This belief was self-fulfilling.
I don’t care how old you are. Start writing if you want to.
9. Test your limits.
I was always more scared of what I couldn't do than what I could do.
I had this fear that if I tried to live up to my potential, I would fall short of the goals I had in my imagination. I thought failure would break me down before I even got going.
I was naïve.
The goals you have are less important than you think. What is important is the self-knowledge you acquire through the pursuit of those goals.
Finding the limitations of your abilities will both humble you and inspire you.
10. Plan a trip to somewhere cool. Go on it.
I wanted to travel ever since I was a kid. I thought traveling would make life feel complete.
In particular, I wanted to see Europe, Asia, and Australia.
I didn’t see any of them until this year when I went to Europe.
The trip was fun, but at the end of the day, my trip didn't make me a happy person. I wish I had traveled sooner so that I could have gotten it out of my system and focused on long-term goals.
11. Identify your priorities.
I was very passive when I was 18. All I really wanted was to get through life without causing trouble or getting yelled at. I hate getting yelled at.
Because of this, I ended up putting up with a lot of crap that I didn’t need to.
By actively identifying your priorities and sticking to them, you filter out a lot of bullshit in your life.
12. Stop questioning everything and start questioning yourself.
I thought I was smart because I questioned everything around me.
I realized pretty early on that everyone was just a person and no one really knew what they were doing, so I questioned their behavior. I didn’t trust people.
I could have saved myself a lot of time if I started to really question myself with the same intensity.
13. Stop treating sex like a competition.
At 18, I thought that having sex with someone was the peak of the male experience.
Getting laid was one of my ultimate goals as a young man. I thought that sex would make me happy just like how social media and the society around me told me it would.
The result of this mindset was mostly empty and lame sex.
Sex is a valuable part of the human experience, but it isn’t everything. Don’t chase sex like a gold medal. You will be bored.
14. Learn to trust your gut.
I went against gut feelings for years because of my anxiety and insecurity.
I stayed in bad relationships because I thought that I couldn’t do any better. I knew the relationship was bad, but I thought that maybe I was wrong.
Every time without fail, my gut was right and I just didn’t trust it.
Have the confidence to trust gut feelings.
15. Get rid of your loser friends.
I was kind of a loser, so I hung around people who were also losers.
I wasn’t friends with drug addicts and criminals (besides a weird stretch when I was about 21— we’ll talk about that some other time), but I was friends with people who didn’t have very high expectations for themselves. I didn’t really like myself, so I surrounded myself with people that I didn’t like.
Don’t do that.
Surround yourself with people who add value to your life. Everyone else is a waste of space.
16. Stop waiting for permission.
For years, I waited for someone to give me permission to try and do Jiu-Jitsu at the highest levels and to let me try to write.
I thought that one day someone would come and say “you’re pretty good at this, you are now allowed to give it your all”.
That day never came. I had to make that day for myself.
17. Learn how to rest.
I’ve always been hyperactive, so I never actually learned how to rest until my body started to physically break down from martial arts competition.
I wish I had learned how to rest sooner. This would have increased my productivity at work, made me better at school, and made me a better and less injured Jiu-Jitsu athlete.
18. You have value. Start giving back now.
I used to think that because I was “a kid”, I had no value. I thought that I couldn’t have value until I “did something”.
I guess that’s why I spent years traveling all over the country chasing plastic medals for external validation.
While I don’t have regrets about my years spent competing all over the place, I didn’t need to do that to have value or knowledge to give to people.
If you have the desire to give back, you have the obligation to. Not helping others by sharing what you know is spiritual suicide.
For me, 18 was the first year of my life that I really felt that the world was expecting anything from me. I felt a lot of pressure, and unfortunately, in a lot of ways, I feel I crumbled under that pressure.
I made horrible social decisions. I made stupid career decisions. I made a lot of mistakes.
People see wins in Jiu-Jitsu or views on articles as metrics of success, but I don’t think these metrics tell the whole story.
If I had done the 18 things I listed above sooner, I wouldn’t just be making more money or winning more Jiu-Jitsu tournaments.
I’d have become happier sooner.
That to me is the most important metric of progress.