I wake up at 4.45 am – excitement bubbling within me.
Today I get to work on what I love doing. Just like every other day.
I’ll apply what I learned yesterday and add some brand graphics to my site.
Oh, it’s Saturday. Another of my article goes out today.
Most of the work is done. Just a few more editing touches. Some SEO tweaks.
Now I’m ready to publish to my subscribers. To my Followers. To the world!
There are people out there who actually care about what I have to say! Unbelievable!
And that’s not all.
I’m learning stuff that I never imagined I would!
I’m making new friends all over the world – some of them with values, mindset, and lifestyles I could never have dreamt of!
I’m getting exposed to new thoughts, ideas, worldviews!
It’s like a steady stream of excitement, knowledge, and growth being beamed upon me.
And I wake up every day, excited to be alive, doing what I have grown to love.
But days were not always sunny like this.
My Life – Before Everything Changed
I have been a software developer for over 12 years now.
Silicon chip manufacturers, telecom giants, investment banks, and private banks – I have worked for them all.
I’ve developed code to control robots in remote semiconductor factories in Japan.
I’ve maintained applications that run the operations of telecom giants in Italy. I’ve developed platforms for OTC trading in emerging markets like Mexico and South Africa.
I’ve written software that powers the decision making of hot-shot portfolio managers. And I’ve helped banking giants to get rid of their pre-historic, paper-based client onboarding processes.
I’ve worked with some of the most brilliant minds in the industry. Their knowledge, work ethic, and dedication amazed me.
I’ve made some great friends. I have led and been a part of teams with enthusiastic members, eager to make their marks.
My clients have appreciated and vouched for me time and again. Here’s what some of them had to say:
My wife Swati (who is also a software dev) and I have a beautiful, mortgage-free home. A 3-year-old son whom we adore. A frugal, minimalistic, yet comfortable lifestyle that allows us to maintain a high savings rate. An impeccable investment discipline. A nest egg that will fund our lifestyle for the next 8 years.
I know what you’re thinking – the picture of a perfect life right?
That’s what they sell to us. Reach every one of these markers and you will be happy.
I should have been happy as a lark.
Except, that I was not.
Want to know why? Keep reading…
The work was interesting. The deadlines and constant pressure were not.
The rush of building something that leaves a mark was great. But working on projects and technologies that I don’t want to, with people I don’t want to, yet showing up every day, was exhausting.
And all of that for what?
Just to increase the standard of living? Build a comfortable lifestyle and a financial future? Ensure a good education for my child?
Don’t get me wrong – the comfort and the security were there.
But I felt that I’ve invested all my happiness in a long term bond. And I was not allowed to book profits.
Every day felt dull and meaningless – going through the same motions.
Nothing to look forward to. Even holidays, occasions, and festivities had lost their charm.
I felt apathy growing inside me like a disease. I couldn’t care less for anything or anyone.
I was turning into a cynic with biting humor.
My past-times included endless movies, video games, and medieval fantasy books.
I was living, feeling long lost emotions, and going on grand adventures through characters from these books and movies. Videogame level-ups and missions gave me the false sense of building something up from scratch.
I was living in a cocoon. A second virtual life where I was solving imaginary problems and earning imaginary achievements.
But even that was not the worst part.
My chronic people-pleasing tendencies were tearing me apart. A habit that I had acquired from being the “problem-free” child in my family.
I was the good, responsible one, with good behavior, and good grades. The one that needs no care or attention. Always ready to rescue others.
I was always assessing other’s moods, trying to cheer them up, even while tolerating disrespects and insults.
I was bored of interacting with others. I knew that I would default to pleasing them and agreeing with them at some point. I hated conflicts and arguments since I was always playing the role of the mediator.
It drained me down. I was so tired of always giving, wringing myself up, and getting scraps in return.
So when it came to my own emotions, I was getting numb.
But the human spirit is not meant to be a doormat.
However strong a facade might be, it will still have cracks. The rage and resentments I was piling up had outlets as well.
They came out when I was alone and safe in the privacy of my car. Sitting there, holding the steering wheel in my hands, I would sometimes erupt when everything became intolerable.
I would get irrationally angry if someone cut me off or gave me troubles while I was driving.
Swati, with whom I had a reciprocal, healthy relationship, with healthy boundaries, often drew the short end of the stick.
She was the only person with whom I felt safe to share all my sorrow, anguish, frustrations. And when there was so much of it accumulated and so few outlets, you can imagine how that went most of the time.
Let’s just say it was not by far in a calm, healthy way. Sometimes we fought because of that. Things certainly could have gone even downhill…
I was like the frog who was staying within the cooking pot and getting boiled alive, while the heat rose slowly.
I needed a jolt – an abrupt change to jump out of the pot.
And thankfully, I received my wake up call.
The upheaval came in the summer of 2018.
Swati and I were new parents then, without much of a support system. We were overworked, under-rested, and hardly got to any time to spend together, let alone me-times.
At this juncture, a huge family drama instigated. Blames and accusations flew like fireworks. And when the dust settled, the mantle of the scapegoat fell upon me.
I bet at this point, that didn’t surprise you much, right?
And on top of that, I had an abrupt and bitter fallout with a close friend.
Allegations were all around, of me not being understanding enough, caring enough, and strong enough.
And in my mind, I was giving everyone whatever I had and yet failed to satisfy anyone.
I was on the verge of a meltdown.
I had begun to reconsider the values and meaning of my life. The intense pain I felt was almost visceral. I felt that everything that I had built was getting torn apart.
I thought I was a failure as a son, a brother, and a friend.
So I was sure that I was going to fail as a husband and father as well.
I was desperately searching for an answer to convince myself otherwise. To find a way forward.
And thankfully, I found them.
The Wake-up Call
My salvation arrived in the form of 2 books:
- “Not Nice” by Dr. Aziz Gazipura
- “No more Mr. Nice Guy” by Robert. E. Glover.
These were, as Tyler Cowen describes, quake books for me. They had a profound impact on me. They changed my life forever.
“Not Nice” was like a soothing balm on my injuries.
It taught me that I have a right to look out for myself first. To love myself and win my own approval. That no one can demand anything of me when it doesn’t serve my interests.
I still carry the “bill of rights” described in the book with me for a quick reference.
“No more Mr. Nice Guy” was a kick to my shins. It made me realize that I was the one holding myself back.
I can blame others for how they treated me, but in each one of those cases, I contributed to the problem.
I allowed them to do that to me. I didn’t have enough self-respect. I was too clingy and needy.
I was addicted to their approval. I was conscious of my image in their eyes. In my mind, my life depended on their approval.
I thought that if I lost it, I’d starve in isolation. My mind made that threat seemed so real!
It finally dawned on me that I have a right to ask whatever I need for myself. I don’t have to wait around, hoping that others would magically understand what I need and drop it on my laps.
I took a deep look inwards. I was forced to admit that I didn’t like what I saw.
Apart from a comfortable lifestyle, I had nothing that I really took pride in.
So I set out to build them.
I started running. I joined violin classes.
I started swimming but gave it up.
I started working out regularly and hired a personal coach. I revamped my nutrition routine and my food habits.
I started my own blog. I shared tips and strategies for people who have been through the same phase of life, or who are heading towards the same cliff drop.
I wrote about what worked for me. And which roads not to take.
I had no idea how to write online. As a software dev, whose last creative writing efforts were school essays in the 6th grade, it was a steep learning curve.
But through perseverance, and some sheer lucky breaks, I was able to build a network around me. They were my mentors, my coaches, my supportive friends, and my inspirations.
I learned the ropes of writing persuasively from the blogging maestro Jon Morrow and the brilliant and insightful Marsha Stopa.
I found supportive friends and guides with a passion for writing.
Rosemary, who can give people half her age a run for their money. Mitch, who ditched the blueprint, and travels around the world as a digital nomad. Silvia and Michal, who run a business together while traveling the world and making pitstops in huge mansions. Jonathan, who explores the deep and meaningful questions of life. Cathy, a brilliant marketer who teaches visual journaling. And Sarah, a finance writer who has grown a six-figure freelance writing business. I am forever indebted to them for their help and support.
And then I found a supportive corner on Twitter as well, where I’m making some great friends and acquaintances. (Case in point, Daniel Vassallo, who was the inspiration for this article.)
Life feels so fulfilling these days. And slowly, everything seems to click in its place.
My Life 2.0
Today the software developer in me lives on.
I’m still working with corporate clients, developing solutions for them, solving their problems, and learning from the process.
But everything else has changed.
I wake up every morning at 5.15 am (even earlier on some days).
I go through my morning routine of 10 jumping jacks, meditation, and journaling.
Then I tackle whatever is important and of priority for my blog and my audience.
I could be working on a new article. I could be creating a landing page for my newsletter, content for my twitter audience, branded images for my blogs. I could be writing email sequences, designing opt-in forms, working on content strategies, or learning some more.
I follow the P.A.R.A organizational framework developed by Tiago Forte to organize my work. My system stores the entire context of my work and retrieves it whenever I need it. Without this, I wouldn’t be able to create content in my shoestring time budget.
I use Todoist to notify me of my daily mundane tasks. But for the important tasks I need to tackle, I use a pretty simple method.
I write one major goal for the next day on a sticky note. I stick it somewhere I can see the first thing in the morning. My aim is to tick off that goal before my morning routine ends.
I do this until 7.30 am. Each day. No exceptions.
At 7.30 am, the husband, dad, and the software dev returns and takes over. I go through the chores and the paid work while I eagerly await the next day.
That’s how I have been able to maintain my growth. Even within a pandemic, being a hands-on dad of a 3-year-old (who still has some challenges to overcome – a remnant from extremely premature birth) without any pre-school and daycare support, handling household chores along with my wife and handling a full time demanding job.
The early morning 2 hours are my selfish me-time. I won’t trade them for any amount of riches in the world.
It’s exhausting. It’s exhilarating.
I won’t have it any other way.
Join me on a Journey to Discover Yourself
And now you must be wondering – what do I write about?
I write what I learn.
And I keep learning about mental health, self-awareness and acceptance, emotion management, and values and meanings to live by.
My goal is to give you hope that even in the mid-30s, all is not lost. It’s never too late to start.
And you are fine. Intact. Whole.
You are a Resilient Human.
You may feel like you are broken, but that’s not you. Its the weight of the layer of hurt, broken dreams, and need for validation that you have piled upon yourself.
I want you to be able to clear that debris. And get back in touch with yourself again.
I believe you deserve respect, happiness, and love. And I’m determined to carve a way out for you to get them.
So that you, like me, know how it feels to be reborn.
So follow me on Twitter and embark on a journey to stop being powerless and take control of your life. Together, let’s make this happen!
The world’s bounties await you.
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