Life begins today

Now answer me, sincerely, honestly, who lives past forty? I’ll tell you who does: fools and scoundrels – Fyodor Dostoevsky

Well, this is it. It finally arrived. The big upgrade to 4.0. Life in your 40s is like, I dunno, season 5 of Game of Thrones: nearly half of the people from your childhood have either disappeared or passed away, while you’re marching on with half the battle already done. Because, if I’m lucky enough to live until my 80s, I’m half way there! Holy crap!

Being 40-ish is rather like being a teenager, you’re not young anymore but not yet THAT old. You can still go out pub hopping all night, paint the town red, and ended up in a 24-hours dim sum place at 3 in the morning with strangers that you’ve just met. But you do it while drinking Tolak Angin beforehand and slip hot tea every once in a while to balance it out. You see, life is all about growth.

Being halfway there also means I’m getting closer to the finish line, if I’m really being realistic (it’s not dark, just memento mori). That’s where the no-bullshit phase comes kicking: I don’t have that much tolerance for bullshit anymore. You either meet me halfway down the middle, or I won’t be bothered to make an effort on you. I don’t have time for building a FIFA team from scratch either, like I used to back in PS1 era. So instead, I go straight to edit and “transfer” all the goats into my team LOL, all the Messi and the Ronaldo, and screw it, Manuel Neuer as a 3rd goalkeeper.

Anyway, do you know what’s the number 1 thing that suddenly comes up a lot when you’re at your 40s? Health issues. They say the best time to think about our health is many years ago, but the second best time is now. Sure, most pro athletes have already retired by the time they’re 40, due to their declining physical abilities. But some of them can turn like Fernando Torres (google image him real quick, what he’s like now. Right? Goddamn). What I’m trying to say here, it’s never too late to start living a healthy life. And there’s no better inspiration for this than – no no, not Fernando Torres – the people who live in the so-called “blue zones” spread around the world where the majority of them live until way pass 100 (google “the ten rules of Ikigai” to see what the formula is).

But being healthy is of course not only for your body, it’s also for your mind. Let me refer to one of Dr. Robert Lustig’s main theses: Happiness hormone = serotonin. Pleasure hormone = dopamine. Money triggers the release of dopamine in our body, not serotonin. Hence, money can buy us pleasure but not happiness. We often get the both mixed up, and thus make us chase the wrong things like seeking happiness by indulging in pleasure (yeah, science biatch!). And here’s the kicker: too much dopamine down-regulates serotonin in our body, in other words too much pleasure will make us unhappy. Hence, the sad millionaire/billionaire phase where normal stuffs can no longer give them satisfaction, which led them to do stupid shit like ended up being in Jeffrey Epstein’s black book.

I mean, sure money solves the vast majority of our problems, but in truth they only solve money problems. They won’t fix our health by itself, won’t buy us real friendship or love, won’t instantly give us knowledge, won’t heal our bruised ego, won’t really give us a peace of mind (mo money mo problems), won’t automatically win us that public approval, or can’t change the fact that when watching Doraemon you suddenly realise that Nobita’s mom now looks like “your age.” Indeed, the most important things in life are earned. This is why some of the happiest people on Earth are like the people in Fiji. Tanned, carefree at the beach, with a big smile on their faces, despite some of them have almost no money.

You know that famous story, right? It may be fake for that matters, but it’s a good one. Something like an entrepreneur wants to work hard to build a company, grow it big, then automate his business, generate a lot of passive income, so that he can retire and buy a property in a paradise like Fiji, so he can spend his retirement days on the beach relaxing. But then a random Fijian dude says to the entrepreneur, ya man (I don’t know Fijian dialect, why does it come out as Jamaican?) I can just wake up everyday and do the same exact thing on the beach right now whilst being poor, young, and without any stress.

Indeed, life can look a little different when we step out of the rat race every once in a while and see how other people in this huge planet live their lives. Like Joey from Friends would say, ambition? Good. Money? Good. But peace of mind? Goooood.

This was the core message of an article that I once read in Medium (I totally forgot what article and by which author, but the message sticks), that the way we live our lives largely depends on 2 things: our interpretation and narration. Yes, it’s not so much what happens to us that is important but our interpretation of that event (and how we respond to it), and how it fits in the narration we have for our lives.

For example, getting rejected can be a good learning process, or it can be a disaster if it doesn’t fit the “flawless” narrative that you’ve created. Going vegan can be seen as fantastic by those who have a green-conscious life narrative (or have watched enough Netflix documentaries), or a douche by those who don’t. Weight lifting and healthy eating can be pointless if you don’t see the need for it and consider yourself more of a foodie. Or indeed some can lie down on the beach doing nothing right now with little money, while others need to have the business success first in their narration before they can do the same exact thing, lie down on the beach doing nothing.

For me, my narration is this: life is an adventure. And like any exciting adventure movies – from Forrest Gump to Indiana Jones to the Motorcycle Diaries – the narration needs to have a balance between triumphs, tragedies, and the chaos in between to make it interesting and worth living. Because life is colourful if we get to enjoy all the spectrum of colours of emotions, all the different music genres for different moods. After all, we can’t possibly appreciate the good things if we’ve never experienced the bad things as a contrasting comparison, or we cannot fully understand happiness if we’ve never felt sadness.

Or in the analogy of censorship, what we need is not censorship on the offensive or dangerous ideas from the past, but more explanation on the context of the era so that we can see the big picture and the evolution of ideas. In other words, what we need is not being protected from harm, shielded from bad experience, or being given half truths due to censorship, but we need more exposure on everything good and bad, accompanied by their contextual explanations so that we can understand the real world much better, can truly adapt ourselves in any circumstances, and can be happier as a result.

Which brings us back to that Ikigai thing. You know what the number 1 cause of happiness for the people in the blue zone is? A sense of purpose. The “why” behind their actions. Because, as long as you live your life inline with your purpose any obstacle can make you grow stronger, any hardship can be seen as a redeemable price for a spot in the after life, any pursuit of 10,000 hours of hard work will be worth it when we achieve our mastery in the end. In other words, we tend to be able to endure the hard times in order to earn better things for our purpose, just like a single mother working 2 crappy jobs to feed her beloved baby. Indeed, happiness comes in many forms and sometimes hardship is part of the process.

So, what’s your purpose in life, what’s your Ikigai? Here’s a little secret, it doesn’t have to be one massive goal, or a noble goal for that matter. You can even have the simplest purpose like to spread kindness or live up to your values, or to just going where the wind blows, enjoying the small things, and be content with it. And that’s the key word: contentment. Because if we’re slave to our greed nothing will ever be enough. There’s a good reason why the Buddha, Jesus, Muhammad (peace be upon them), and other religious leaders all preach the same simplistic lifestyle that teach us to avoid the “worldly” materialistic urges.

Contentment also means making the right decisions in your life to ensure that there will be no regrets. The sins you didn’t do, the tattoo you didn’t make when you were drunk, the ex you separated with, the high risk/high return opportunities you just have to take (or don’t take but instead opted to take the longer road with more stability). Contentment also means appreciating what you have, and don’t take them for granted. Because sometimes what you don’t realise that you have is the number one thing that other people ultimately want. Like Confucius once said, “a healthy man wants a thousand things, a sick man only wants one.”

To me, life is beautiful when I spend it with my wife and kids, reading books, listening to music, running and playing football, doing a job that I love, meeting with many different friends, laugh a lot, and doing many, many adventures. I’d also like to tick everything in my long bucket list, taste almost everything at least once, be the spark of joy for my surroundings, sometimes doing the difficult things just because it’s the right thing to do, and above all enjoying the ride while being healthy and always staying true to my core principles (because if I wasn’t, it would be eating me alive).

And so, here I am. Walking halfway to somewhere, trying to strike a balance between becoming the entrepreneur and the Fijian. My values are as solid as ever, my priorities are becoming clearer, my conscience is clear, and I feel content. And while I may not be like Rich Roll – who transformed his unhealthy life filled with drugs and alcohol at 40 and ended up clocking top finishes at Ultraman World Championships by the age of 42 – I could do with a little more discipline with health and fitness, you know, a wiggle room to grow. So I guess this is it. Never thought that I would ever arrived at this point, but hey-oh, here I am, and here we go life’s waiting to begin.