Misery to mastery: my decade long journey from an overweight teen to a vibrant adult
June 18, 2023
Today I’d like to share with you a story of how I radically changed my life over the course of a decade, going from a miserable and overweight teenager to a strong, competent, and (generally) happy adult. I’ll also share with you some of the tools, techniques, and methods that I’ve applied over the years that helped me get to this place.
Lastly, I will introduce you to the one tool that I wish I had when I started my journey ten years ago. This tool takes the best of all the things I’ve experimented with - my most valuable learnings - and combines them into a practical, holistic, and user-friendly digital system.
It’s one of the few things in my life I use on a daily basis, and that I absolutely swear by.
The dark night of the Soul
When I was around 15 years old, I went through the most difficult period of my life. I was addicted to porn, weed, video games, cigarettes, and junk food, and I vividly remember stepping on the scale and coming in just a little under 100 kg.
On top of that (and mostly fuelled by it), I was regularly experiencing strong waves of existential distress and fear of death; something I’ve struggled with since I was a young kid.
Most of my days felt like a constant struggle and my bad habits were my way of trying to escape this struggle, which inadvertently made them worse.
In the moments when I was feeling especially down, life felt meaningless and bleak. The only upside was that I had friends and family that cared about me; but even in their company, my mind would often go to dark places.
A catalyst for change
On one fateful night, I was staring at the ceiling after having had another existential mini-crisis. I couldn’t take this anymore.
I felt completely stuck.
Stuck between not wanting to live my life this way and not wanting to die; I didn’t want to be here, but the only thing I wanted even less was not to be here.
Then, an idea struck me. I had often found solace from my dark thoughts by thinking about girls that I was attracted to. So the solution was easy: if I would just get a girlfriend - someone who could be in my life and hold me when I was feeling down - then all my problems would be solved.
Spoiler alert: this is the worst foundation you can have for any relationship.
For some reason that is beyond me, I actually got to work and committed myself to becoming more attractive to women.
Trial and error
In the following years, I started experimenting with many different things. I went deep into the pick-up scene; I started going to the gym consistently; I went out a lot; and I slowly became more engaged in my studies.
In hindsight, this period was one of the most important of my life, because I had learned one fundamental lesson that has shaped everything I’ve done since.
If I actively apply myself to something, I can get better at it.
This lesson formed the foundation of my personal development journey. In the past decade I’ve tried countless of different techniques, products, courses, retreats, and routines, in an attempt to figure out how to live a good life (and overcome my fear of death).
These include all the ‘standards’ like cold showers, low-carb diets, meditation, strength training, and reading books. But I also tried a whole lot of niché things like 10-day silent retreats, 5 day water fasts, (micro)dosing LSD, laying on the ground in public places, and slowly developing an obsession with sauna’s.
Becoming an entrepreneur
Then, when I was around 20 years old, I tentatively started to dip my toes in the world of entrepreneurship. For the first few years this mostly took form in ‘solopreneurship’; first starting a blog, later a Youtube channel, and then a podcast.
This was followed by a two-year period of co-founding and leading a non-profit foundation. A period in which I got to experience entrepreneurship in ‘the real world’. After that came to an end I pivoted back to the ‘one-man business model’ and started the business that I’m currently running, called Meaning Crafter.
An important detail to share is that all of these projects were driven by the same underlying question: how can we live a meaningful, good, and happy life in the 21st century?
To me, entrepreneurship has always been (and still is) a vehicle for exploring this question. I look for business opportunities geared towards this answering this question, and in doing so create leverage for myself. I then use this leverage to have better conversations, with increasingly interesting people, and create ever-more value for myself and others.
Fundamentally it’s a very selfish thing; I’m scratching my own itch.
I just hope that someone out there might see me scratching and thinks: I’ve never considered scratching it like that!
Scratching the itch of a lifetime
Over the years I have tried a ton of different productivity tools in pursuit of realizing my fullest potential. But I always felt like I was leaving something (or a lot) on the table.
Until I encountered the excellent Pillars, Pipelines & Vaults series by August Bradley, featuring an extensive ‘life operating system’ build on top of Notion. As a personal development geek, who was already completely down the Notion rabbit hole, this series couldn’t have come at a better time. Within the span of a few weeks, I re-created the entire system and implemented it into my own life.
This system was great and it introduced me to the idea of having one central place to collect, organize, and process all the different information streams that make up our lives. But, as a university-trained designer (in combination with all of my previous experience in personal development), I realized that this system could be radically improved.
So, I decided to build a better one myself and that’s how I started working on A Notion of Life.
Building A Notion of Life
Being in the fortunate position of doing my graduation assignment in my own company, I was able to fully focus on building this system; spending approximately 1000 hours on it over the course of a year.
I took inspiration from some of the world's most renowned methods, like Building a Second Brain (Tiago Forte), Getting Things Done (David Allen), Deep Work (Cal Newport), Atomic Habits (James Clear), and of course PPV (August Bradley).
Then, I combined these with my extensive personal experience in the domains of positive psychology, stoic philosophy, Buddhism, essentialism, holistic growth, goal setting, and much more.
This formed the foundation of the system but by no means the end.
I rigorously tested the product with potential users and I also integrated it into my own daily life; forcing myself to be my own harshest critic. Based on these findings I would go back to the drawing board, make an iteration, and test it again.
I ended up making many iterations.
However, the main goal of the system was always crystal clear to me, as it should help people do two things:
- Get a deeper understanding of who they are, what they truly value, and what they want out of life.
- To facilitate them in effectively and efficiently executing on who it is they truly are, or have decided to be.
Laying the last brick
Now, the final version of the product is completed and the result is A Notion of Life, an aesthetic and functional system build on top of Notion. It consists of many unique templates, dashboards, and databases, all brought together in a holistic and user-friendly system.
A Notion of Life leverages the power of technology to create a life of Effortless Excellence and exponential growth; both personally and professionally.
Over the coming months, I will be publishing an in-depth series on Youtube in which I’m sharing A Notion of Life with you. These videos will teach you a lot about the inner workings of the system, what it’s based on, and how it is applied.
These videos will teach you a lot about how the system works and how it is applied. If you have the patience and time to rebuild this system based on those videos; all power to you.
However, if you don’t want to learn all the technicalities and build this entire system from scratch, I have an offer for you.
On the 21st of June I’m officially launching the Notion of Life eco-system for its first 100 users. After which it will close so that I have enough time and energy available to support the people that signed up.
You can gain early-bird access to the first cohort by leaving your e-mail address down below. This includes a 20% discount code and early access to the official sales page (48 hours in advance).
You might have heard the Chinese proverb that “the best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The Second best time is now”.
Well, the best time to create a system for transforming your life was 20 years ago. The second best time is now.
Time to seize the moment.
Coming up next
In the next article we’re going to take a deep dive into the fundamentals of the system, so that you have a clear understanding of what it is we’re trying to build. Stay tuned and join us for the ride; it’s going to be awesome!