Life Happens: Is It Happening To You Or Is It Happening For You?

Is life happening to you?

Or is life happening for you?

To put it into a more personal form the two questions we could ask ourself when faced with one of life’s difficulties (aka challenges) is:

  1. Why is this happening to me?

  2. Why is this happening for me?

In a sense, both are true, but the form of the question you choose to focus on makes all the difference in the quality of your experience as you work through the challenge (aka problem).

Question 1 puts us in victim-mode where one has little-to-no personal power. With this question, we will focus on all the reasons the difficulty has attacked our life & why it is fucking up our happiness.

Mini Case Study:

Example 1: You get two new massive projects at work on the same day & they are both due on same day. Oh yeah, and all your other plentiful work you had before the two new work projects showed up still have to be done as well. You think to yourself, “FML! How am I going to get all this done?! This is going to kill my work/life balance & my happiness is fucked for the next two weeks! I guess I am just unlucky and will have to suffer through it. Once I get through it then I can finally go back to enjoying my life.”

Now let’s look at the other side of the coin:

Using the format of Question 2 puts us in victor-mode where we have massive power. With this question, we will focus on all that can be GAINED from the experience and how it can ADD to the awesomeness of our life.

Example 1 re-imagined with a Question 2 frame of mind: Same scenario at work hits, two massive projects hit your desk. Though you’re initially slightly overwhelmed you start asking yourself how this can benefit your work and your life. You start looking at it like the next challenge that is going to create the growth you’ve been needing to reach the next level of your career and also the next level of your life. You think to yourself, “Wow! This is more than I’ve ever done all in the same timeframe. I am really going to learn a ton and grow massively. Even more, I get to practice taking work to the next level and still live a life outside of work that is seriously awesome! I’m gonna be stretched, I’m gonna be uncomfortable, but I’m excited because I know that it is outside of my comfort zone where all the growth happens. Damn, I’m lucky this opportunity came along! Things were feeling a bit too easy lately and nothing like a hard challenge to bring some adventure into my life! YEEEEEHAWWWW! Let’s do this!”

Visualizing all the awesome growth I’m gonna gain from my challenging work adventure.

Visualizing all the awesome growth I’m gonna gain from my challenging work adventure.

If we look back on our life at the most challenging times & trials we usually point to these as the formative experiences that have created the good & great part of ourselves that we & others admire.

Unfortunately, most of us don’t realize this until way after the experience has passed. Yet, we can train ourselves to actually recognize when one of these tough life altering experiences are underway. It takes a macro view of one’s life to see them as they are happening. We must zoom out and ask ourselves, “Is this one of those experiences that is going to massively move me forward and/or fundamentally change me and my life for the better once I solve it?” If the answer is yes, then we can consciously embrace the adventure as it is happening versus getting beat down by it.

Let me be honest, this is not easy to do. Fear is going to try hide the gifts of the situation from us. Fear is going to try to make us suffer, play victim, play small, bitch, moan & complain. This is when we gotta dig deep. Like real deep. And tap into that fuzzy thing called faith. With some faith in our power to direct & experience our lives in an empowering way we can choose the attitude & mindset that makes the experience worthwhile during the actual experience. [Instead of waiting for months or even years to glean the gold from the adventure.]

So, in order to direct our lives in the best way possible, we must constantly work to consciously choose which frame of mind we are approaching any situation.

Mindset is everything AND energy flows where focus goes.

Do you want your mind wasting precious energy on all the reasons why such and such situation sucks so bad?

Or do you want your mind looking for all Gold to be mined from the challenging growth-inducing awesome situation?

The latter option is the harder choice for most of us, myself included, and it is something we have to constantly practice.

Even now in my life, I am facing family challenges & professional challenges. The case study above is from real life.

The lazy & weak part of myself wants to focus on “poor me, why is this happening to me?”

At the same time, my wiser self is quietly reminding me to focus on “Holy fuck! This is awesome! So much to be learned & gained! I’m going to grow massively from these golden opportunities! I love how life is always happening for me! YEEHAW!!”

I’m writing this as a reminder to myself to listen to the wiser part of myself. And not only to listen quietly but to crank up the volume because it’s always a fine time to celebrate the awesomeness of LIFE!!

If you are in a challenging phase of life try searching for how life is happening FOR you. It may just alchemize your life!

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Your Problems Aren’t Going Away & Neither Are Mine

Life is full of problems. Money problems. Work problems. Relationship problems. Family problems. Health problems. They seem to plague every area of life.

Unfortunately, a lot of us, myself included, often fall prey to the idea that if we could just solve or get rid of some specific problem then life would finally be great.

Here are some of my personal favorites:

“Once I get this deal done at work then I can finally live life & have some fun.”

“Once I become a multi-millionaire then I’ll be successful.”

"Once I become Financially Independent then I'll truly be free."

“Once I fix this part of my relationship then we will be truly happy.”

"Once I achieve this body fat percentage then I'll finally love & accept my body."

[Insert your problems/obstacles here.]

And this list goes on FOREVER. It never fucking stops.

The problem with this line of thinking is that it robs us of the inherent joy available within the process of overcoming obstacles.

We often get so focused on how not having something or how some specific problem is ruining our life. We delude ourselves with the notion that once we fix it everything will be better.

Life does not work that way.

Once you solve one problem it gets replaced by another problem.

You see, problems really are just opportunities in disguise. And each problem is an opportunity to heal, grow & transform.

This is what life is about—it’s one big game of healing, growing and transforming.

And life is so much fucking fun when you realize that it is the greatest game any of us will ever get to play!

Like you, I am human and I often forget to have fun with all the problems (opportunities) that come up. However, I do my best to regularly remind myself to be a Life Alchemist. Heck, one of the reasons I am writing this post is crystalize this into my consciousness and so that I can come back to reread this when I do mentally fall astray from the empowering mindset.

So what do I mean by “Be a Life Alchemist?” To me, this is philosophy of living that includes the belief that anything & everything is something that can be used to alchemize (transform) life for the better if we choose to approach it with the right mindset.

In the legends Alchemists were revered for their ability to turn lead into gold. They could take a seemingly valueless or low value material that no one wanted and through the seemingly magical process of combination and creation, transform it something wildly valuable.

A Life Alchemist takes the lead of life and uses it to transform situations & scenarios into pure gold. Through this magical process the lead of life ultimately becomes the most valuable experiences of life.

With this mindset I go from being reactive & playing victim to actively seeking out the way in which to use the problem or situation to heal, grow & transform my life. And I choose to approach this with a fun & magical attitude because being a Life Alchemist is virtually the same as being a Wizard—both are masters of all the elements of life.

The problem hasn’t changed, but my mindset has and that makes all the difference.

When I look back on my life all the best things that have happened to me have come about because of fucked up seemingly terrible things. Here’s a short list:

  1. Getting beat up by my older brother during childhood.

  2. Getting denied by Stanford on the first try (this was a goal/dream I had since 3rd grade and it directed everything I did).

  3. Dropping out of Stanford w/ two quarters to go.

  4. Leaving a very successful career in Hollywood nightlife.

  5. Getting 6 years behind on my taxes & accumulating $40K worth of debt.

Though all of these seriously sucked at the time that they happened or during the initial period they were the crucible I broke myself against so I could build myself back even stronger & better while discovering deeper levels of my self & my purpose in life. They were the lead of life that I refined until I found the precious value hidden within. If it weren’t for these experiences I would be a radically less evolved human being and I wouldn’t have the amazing life I have today. Here’s just a few of the hugely positive aspects of solving each one of these problems:

  1. I got strong. Very strong. And I learned to choose another path.

  2. I learned to pick myself back up after a major defeat and try again (I got into Stanford on the second try).

  3. I learned that it’s never too late to go back & complete something important.

  4. I learned that when you leave a toxic environment, trust the Universe & open yourself to new opportunity amazing things you could have never predicted can & will happen—like becoming a founding team member of a wellness/technology Stanford Startup.

  5. I learned that you can turn great weakness or failure into great strength. It was because of this challenge that I discovered Financial Independence and only have a couple more years to go before all paid work becomes optional.

Even now I am working through a super tough “problem”—my family’s money/wealth paradigm. I won’t go into details. I’ll spare my family from sharing too openly, but I can share that it brings up massive fear in me and other members of my family with whom I’m working through it with.

As we are working through this problem we often get triggered, emotional, angry, sad, depressed and the whole gamut of darker emotions. It isn’t easy.

Oftentimes it’s so scary for me personally and I have so many mental/emotions blockages around it that I get a headache and my body gets all clammy.

But I keep at it, knowing that the only way is through the darkness. Deep down I know we must mine the darkness for the gold. And through the painful effort we’ve already made massive progress.

I’m choosing to use this current familial money-problem (challenge/opportunity) to be a champion for my family’s wealth & to lead myself & others to the next level of life.

In the end I know it will definitely be worth it just to see what kind of healing, growth & transformation happens for all of the family members who choose to face & embrace the fear and work through it together. Through this work we are healing family money/wealth backwards & forward through the family line—that’s ultra powerful!

During this experience I also do my best to keep looking at it from a Macrocosmic View. Despite the problem in this area, LIFE IS STILL FUCKING GREAT! It’s just one part that needs some alchemizing and it doesn’t take away from all the other awesomeness in my life. In fact, through contrast, it allows me recognize just how damn good I have it in so many other areas of life. And in truth, even this problem is totally an awesome exciting adventure that I’m privileged to take with my family.

And let’s keep it super real—as soon as I solve this problem the Universe is just going to give me another more challenging one so I may as well do my best to enjoy the never ending problem solving process of life because it is literally the substance of what life is made up of! We can try to run & hide from it or deny it, but problems and challenges are a part of the daily fabric of all our lives.

Knowing that the lead will be served up in our lives with regularity I firmly believe we all can take the Life Alchemist approach if we choose to. However, we must consciously & proactively choose to be the Life Alchemist. It won’t just happen by default. Resignation & cynicism is the adult default, just look around.

When we do take this Life Alchemist approach each obstacle we face in the game of life is an opportunity to level up. We can have massive amounts of fun, experience joy, & be exhilarated when we recognize the current problem is the Adventure! It is the current Golden Opportunity the Universe is serving up to us!

So will you embrace your current problems (aka Gifts of the Universe) & use them to move to the next level AND recognize the joy of the process of solving the problem, challenge, riddle, or opportunity?

Or will you play the victim? Or hide? Or run?

The choice is always yours (and mine).

Are we playing full out at the game of life?

Are we leveling up?

Are we embracing the challenge and having fun on the adventure?

Or are we getting played by life?

I choose to take 100% responsibility, have massive fun on the journey, play full out, & keep leveling up! By making this choice my problems become my life’s greatest adventures, the truly precious gifts, and I get to enjoy life right now instead of waiting in perpetuity to solve all my problems—which will never happen because our problems are never going away remember?

What will you choose the next time you are faced with one of life’s problem?

What mindset will you approach it with?

What will your experience be?

Whatever you choose, know that the choice is always yours. And know that you can always make a new choice. Today. Right now.

Your favorite Life Alchemist,

Justin David Carl

P.S. Here are some resources that have helped me cultivate the Life Alchemist mindset:

Always lots of daily/weekly empowering content on my Instagram:

Expanding Horizons: Our First International Romantic FI Adventure Trip & An Introduction To Travel Hacking & Travel Fitness

Perspective. Such a powerful thing. One of the reasons I love to travel so much. And one of the reasons I love to fly my drone so much!

By creating temporary distance from our day-to-day life we are able to examine it from a more macrocosmic perspective, contrast it with our temporarily newfound life while traveling (or flying), and recognize all the awesome things and not so awesome things in our regular occurring life.

This process creates space to ignite healing, cultivate growth & ultimately transform our lives for the better in many ways! From the areas of love & intimacy to our mindset, spirituality, work, career, money, health, fitness & more!

My Phoenix & I recently got back from our first international trip together since we’ve been together formally. In full transparency, it was our first multi-day trip that was just for us. All of the many prior trips were either day-trips or multi-day trips that were for work or for family.

Taking the time, energy & money to invest in our relationship & invest in our lives through a romantic FI* adventure was one of the best things we’ve done all year! So much healing, growth & transformation occurred during our time in Mexico and it came home with us too!

And I’m so grateful that my FI wife empowered us to make it our first international FI adventure trip! We did the whole weeklong trip for less than $750 total—including airfare, accommodations, food, activities & gifts for the both of us!

Here is a a breakdown of our Travel Costs with some additional notes:

The infamous Dragon Bowl Salad made it’s debut in Mexico w/ a delicious fried egg & veggie carne asada topping!

The infamous Dragon Bowl Salad made it’s debut in Mexico w/ a delicious fried egg & veggie carne asada topping!

  • Flights: $170 roundtrip from San Francisco to Puerto Vallarta for two using Southwest Points & Companion Pass**. This was airfare taxes & fees ($85 per person).

  • Airbnb: $303 for 7 nights in a large beautiful flat. We actually had the whole floor to ourself and it included a massive kitchen, patio, dining room, reading room, bedroom, bathroom & had a rooftop with an incredible view, a small pool and a BBQ. And it was a 10-minute walk from the center of the city and a grocery store.

  • Uber/Bus: $61 ($76 minus $15 monthly Uber Credit from Amex Platinum).

  • Dining out: $43, we only out twice. One was expensive—$33 for a touristy beach front dining. And one was crazy cheap $10 for dinner for two plus tip in the amazing beach town of Sayulita. The rest of the time the Phoenix cooked her version of the local faire (vegetarian carne asada, tostados, refried beans, etc) and I made my customary massive Dragon Salad Bowls and put her cooking on top of it.

  • Groceries: $100, we shopped at the “Ley” grocery store closest to our Airbnb (it was within walking distance). Grocery shopping while traveling is a key component of my FI/Fitness 2-punch combo.

  • Gifts: $64 for a beautiful Mexican blanket ($14) for our home & some awesome handmade leather shoes for the Phoenix ($50).

  • Grand total: $741 

Further Down The Travel Hacking Tarmac:

Thanks again to our Amex Platinum we had free access to some pretty sweet airport lounges in both Oakland & Puerto Vallarta. Prior to this trip we’d never been in an airport lounge. They are definitely an Oasis in a normally somewhat chaotic place. On both sides of the trip the lounges provided plenty of free food. In the Oakland Escape lounge I even made myself two sandwiches to-go for the flight and ate those in the “free” Uber ride from the Mexican Airpot to our Airbnb. As mentioned above the Amex Platinum comes with A LOT of perks—$15 monthly Uber credit, a priority lounge pass, & more.

What’s even crazier to think about is that with a little more Travel Hacking*** & FI saviness we could have completely erased the Airbnb fee by using points to book a hotel. That would have brought down the total cost to $438 for a weeklong trip to Mexico for two people!! That’s $219 per person!

Dragon & Phoenix enjoying the sunset view from our Airbnb.

Dragon & Phoenix enjoying the sunset view from our Airbnb.

I usually prefer to stay in an Airbnb because I love the infusion into the local community it provides as well as it just feels so much more creative to me so we optimized for that experience during this trip. I also prefer to save my points for airfare because you usually get way more bang for your buck (or points).

For the record, I did just sign up for our first Hotel Points Card just this morning! I chose the World of Hyatt card for its 50K bonus ($850 value) after you spend $6,000 over six months. Here is my referral link (I’ll get more points if you sign up), but feel free to just google it if you don’t want me to benefit.

This Hotel Card Points decision was based on two important factors: (1) the Phoenix loves being treated to a nice hotel room on occasion (and so do I to be honest) and (2) it’s nice to have hotel points on hand just in case we ever need them in a pinch. I also think having at least some hotel points in your Travel Hacking Toolbox is a great way to have more optionality when booking your next trip.

We could have taken it even further and used an additional credit card bonus to wipe out the ancillary travel costs (airfare taxes & fees, uber/taxi) with a card like the Capital One Venture that allows you to erase travel costs from your monthly statement (airfare taxes/fees & taxi/rideshare count). That would have brought our total trip cost down to $201, or $100.50 per person for a freakin week in Mexico! I’m still new to Travel Hacking so I forgive myself for not maximizing savings and instead I continue to be inspired by others who have already done even longer & wilder trips for free or with ridiculously inexpensive travel budgets. I’m definitely motivated to take my Travel Hacking skills to the next level on the next trip!

We still have the Chase Southwest Companion pass until the end of 2019 so our next trip will be planned around one of the many exotic locations that airline flies. Please comment or PM me on social media if you have any great Southwest Airline destination suggestions! Maybe we will even book a hotel with points for that trip!

Now that I’m 1.5+ years into my FI Journey I’m pretty damn stoked that I’m learning the Travel Hacking Life Hack—I’ve always loved travel, but I never loved how much money it cost. Now I can explore the world with my love and do it practically for free!

A big reason I took this Instagram Post and expanded it into an introduction to Travel Hacking is because (a) I firmly believe everyone benefits from travel in the form of rejuvenation, healing, growth, transformation & consciousness expansion and (b) I deeply believe Travel Hacking is a skill everyone can learn and should learn.

I found that I had infinitely more fun planning this trip & living this trip while trying to figure out how to do it as frugally as possible. As I mentioned in the Reshaping My Money Story article when you approach things with a FI/Frugal mindset you end up having waaaaaay more fun AND save tons of money which you can instead invest to create even more freedom in your life. Freedom & fun are my two top personal values & I think everyone benefits from them.


I’ve been a longtime proponent of using travel as an excuse to get even more fit. This is in stark-contrast to what I see most people do when they travel—eat like shit, drink excessively, not exercise & destroy their health. Instead of rejuvenating & encouraging new growth many unfortunate souls do exactly the opposite and come back in worse shape (mentally, emotionally, physically, & spiritually) from their vacation. I stand for the possibility that we can use travel to heal, grow & transform us for the better. When it comes to fitness & travel I take a contrarian approach & combine it with a FI Mindset. Here is how approached my physical training while in Mexico:

Since I was staying in an Airbnb I did consider paying to go to a gym so I could workout daily while on the trip, but ultimately I asked myself these questions:

What will make me grow the most?

What will I remember more?

What will my future self thank me the most for?

My sweet jugs for sumo deadlifts, squats, stair climbing & calf raises on Leg Day in Mexico.

My sweet jugs for sumo deadlifts, squats, stair climbing & calf raises on Leg Day in Mexico.

So instead of taking the easy/convenient route of spending money to go to a gym I made the choice to grow more and I utilized the incredible rooftop our Airbnb had and I used the jump rope & resistance bands I brought for exactly this reason. I doubled down on this FI/Fitness love and got even more creative—using the door frame for pull-ups, the stairs to the rooftop for sprints, and even utilized some giant water jugs for a savage leg day. It was awesome working on my sweet tan and pushing myself to creatively devise 40-60 minutes workouts each day. And I got to do it with an epic view of the city & beaches!

When it came to getting around We optimized walking everywhere whenever possible. Even up the ridiculously steep multi-block hill to get to our Airbnb. This was especially fun when we were carrying lots of groceries. I considered it part of my Spartan Training for the trip. By taking this approach to emphasizing muscle over motor I easily logged 10K-20K+ steps a day.

I also happened to bring Spikeball along for the trip and randomly recruited the first couple we saw on the beach. We taught them to play, enjoying several rounds of Spike, & ultimately having a grand time on the beautiful beach of Puerto Vallarta. They had so much fun they even ended up inviting us on an epic hidden beaches guided group hike the following day (which we went on of course!!).

Colomitos Beach, Puerto Vallarta. A “hidden beach” only accessible by boat or by hiking in (like we did).

Colomitos Beach, Puerto Vallarta. A “hidden beach” only accessible by boat or by hiking in (like we did).

Funny enough, I even got to workout in a hotel gym (for free) on one of the days because by pure chance one of my good friends was also visiting Puerto Vallarta so we linked up and crushed a workout together in his hotel gym. This backs up another one of the interesting features behind approaching life with a FI/Frugal mindset—if instead of just spending money for convenience I choose to wait & open myself up to the infinite opportunities of the Universe what I originally wanted gets delivered to me for free (or at a radically reduced price). Good things really do come to those who wait.

On the morning of the last day I wanted to maximize my fitness & maximize my experience so I took a run through the city with my drone in my running backpack to scope out some parts of the city that I’d only flown over (like the Spire in the title photo). It was so invigorating, fun & a perfect way for me to close out an epic trip.


Heck! I’m still having fun & feeling even more free just reminiscing about how I optimized this trip & thinking about how I’m gonna optimize the next trip even better!

I highly suggest everyone get on the Travel Hacking bandwagon (more guides/resources below)! I implore you to make life an adventure, invest the time/energy into learning an amazing skillset that will serve you for the rest of your precious life & radically increase the freedom & fun in your life while you are at it!

On top of that, I encourage everyone to learn & practice healthful eating & exercise in a diverse array of ways so that no matter what environment or life-situation you are in you can have fun challenging yourself to maintain & even increase your physical fitness! This will also increase your freedom, fun, creativity, and when you do it with a FI mindset it will speed up your path to FI.

Happy Travel/Fitness Hacking Everyone!

Your Life Alchemist,


P.S. Below is a list of the credit cards & sign up bonuses with referral links that I’ve gotten so far (I started this endeavor in December of 2017). Please note that with some of these links I will get additional points if you sign-up using my referral link. You’re welcome to google them if you’d prefer me not to benefit personally from your signup.


  • *FI stands for Financial Independence which is a cultural movement, a money mindset & a life philosophy. Read more about it in my “Reshaping My Money Story” article.

  • **The Southwest Companion Pass allows you to designate one person as your companion and they can fly for free with you on any flight you book with cash or points on Southwest until the end of the following year. You have to earn 110K points in one calendar year to qualify for this, but if you optimize to hit 110K points in the first part of say 2020 then you’ll have the companion pass until the end of 2021—that’s practically 2 years of having your “other person” fly for free with you anywhere you go!! Here is an article that teaches you how to earn the Southwest Companion pass for 2-years (hint: it’s easier than you think).

  • ***Travel Hacking: Using miles & points achieved through credit card signup bonuses & other Financial Independence strategies to travel for radically reduced cost or even for free. Please note that Travel Hacking is NOT for people who don’t pay off their credit cards every month, are in debt, or have messy personal finances. Read my “Facing Financial Shame” article if you are still on the road to financial recovery.

  • Massive thanks to the ChooseFI community for teaching me the savvy ways of Travel Hacking! Here is another great article from ChooseFI to get you started on your own Travel Hacking journey.

Always more empowering content on my Instagram:

FOMO & Is The Grass Really Greener On The Other Side?

The grass is greener on the other side. What a bunch of crap! The grass is greener where you water it.

For most of my life, I suffered from FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out) & the grass is greener on the other side complex (or GIGOTOS as I like to call it).

When I was working in Hollywood Nightlife I always thought I should be doing something else even though I was having fun, building career capital & making great money.

In the first couple of years at Oh My Green I had plenty of thoughts of “This is too hard. There is too much stress & anxiety. Life would be better at another company.”

Fortunately, over the last few years, I’ve learned from serious in-depth life study, several mental/physical concepts, techniques habits & transformative processes that have empowered me to embrace my actual life, right here, right now, in the present.

These formative practices include daily meditation, getting good sleep, practicing stoicism, developing grit & anti-fragility, Vision Quests & Physical Quests (Gran Fondo, Spartan Beast), yoga, participating in transformational workshops & coaching (Landmark, Couples Coaching), & reading some great books & blogs as well listening to podcasts that have alchemized the way I think about work, money, relationships & life in general.

Sticking around at Oh My Green and using the constant challenges to forge myself anew again and again has been one of the best decisions & practices of my life. The obstacle is the way. And the challenges don’t get easier or go away. Just like you don’t get rid of your problems. You just get better problems (aka opportunities) to work on that will push & empower you to the next level of your life.

The only thing you are missing out on when you are focused on something that is out there is your own wild & wonderful life.

So if you think the grass is greener on the other side & are experiencing FOMO... WAKE THE FUCK UP!

Your life is happening right now in this very moment.

Everything you need to live a life worth living for is contained within you. The work you are doing, the relationship you are in, the experiences/situations you are in & the body you inhabit are the very things that you can use to create a life truly worth living for.

Your life is the biggest gift you will ever be given and to tap into it you need to focus on the present. Realize the future, the past, and some other person, place or thing outside of yourself and your life is an illusion meant to distract you from receiving the gift of the present. There is a very important reason it’s called the PRESENT—it is the gift of all gifts!

Ignore the noise & take 100% responsibility for all aspects of your life & take massive action. By doing this you will realize just how much personal power you have & just how awesome your life is.

To reiterate, the key is taking RESPONSIBILITY & ACTION now. For everything in your life. Not some day in the future.

We all have problems. Empowered individuals mine the fuck out of their problems & turn them into golden opportunities that transform their lives for the better. They do this each day and each week, especially during the messy & chaotic times.

So, I say fuck that other grass & fuck FOMO. I’m gonna keep watering this grass right here & with just a little bit of self-awareness know that I can harness the power of JOMO — the Joy Of Missing Out on shit that isn’t happening in my life right here, right now. I’m embracing my PRESENT!

5 powerful ways to cultivate JOMO, avoid FOMO & negate the grass is greener on the other side Mentality:

In addition to the more in-depth methods I mentioned above here are 4 strategies you can begin implementing in your life today to build a better more satisfying & authentic life. 

  1. Develop a personal mission: when you are living on purpose and are consciously aware that you are living on purpose you actually appreciate exactly where you are at and FOMO and GIGOTOS have nothing on you. [some resources listed in this article for developing a personal mission]

  2. Understand & activate the 3 Related Principles of Continuous Life Optimization: When you focus on optimizing these three areas—people, environment, consumption—it’s unlikely you will succumb to FOMO or grass is greener on the other side.

  3. Practice Negative Visualization: This is a great mental technique to bring massive joy to just about any situation in your life. I practice it daily.  [quick tutorial on this in this Instagram Post]

  4. Meditate: I’ve been doing Transcendental Meditation (TM) for over 4 years without missing a single day of meditation. It’s a powerful part of keeping my Inner Citadel well fortified. There are hundreds if not thousands of types of meditation practices. Headspace is a great place to start (download the app & start today). The point is to find one that works for you and keep at it. It is not an overnight fix. It’s slow, but the positive effects are deep, pervasive & long last-lasting.

  5. Take responsibility & action for EVERYTHING in your life: It’s amazing how much can be solved by taking responsibility & taking action. It cures fear, anxiety, stagnation & creates movement & new life in your life.

There are plenty of other strategies to cultivate JOMO, avoid FOMO & negate the grass is greener on the other side mentality. At the core of it all is MINDSET & HABITS—build these up and you’ll be happily seated in your powerful Inner Citadel that has everything you need to live a life worth living for.

Feel free to share your related tips & strategies in the comments or reach out to me on one of my social media platforms to share.

Wishing you all a life full of Joy in the Present!

END NOTE: This was originally an Instagram Post that I updated & slightly expanded so that it could be more useful instead of just inspiring. I use my Instagram like a microblog, but oftentimes find that I need more characters/words than allowed to fully flesh out an empowering piece of content.

Always more Life Empowering posts & stories on my Instagram:

Cultivating Work With True Heart & Meaning (AKA: How To Avoid Unhealthy Workism)

The article, “Workism Is Making Americans Miserable,” made me think hard about work. After pondering it for a couple of weeks here are some thoughts:

I deeply believe that in order to find happiness & meaning in work one needs to clearly define a personal mission & make sure one’s weekly work aligns with that mission. Otherwise work is just a paycheck and there are millions of ways to make money. 

If your inner world is undefined, your outer world will be undefined & meaningless. 
And humans by default almost always strive for “more”—money, work, things, tv, social media, etc. even when it's detrimental to health & balance in one's life and even when it's meaningless. 

Again, an undefined personal life purpose leads to a life of drift & personal detriment.

I also firmly believe that balance is achieved by opposing muscles of different life areas pulling against one another. This is how you balance in a challenging yoga pose, this is how you balance a challenging life. Therefore strong work muscles must be counterbalanced by strong rejuvenation muscles.

The awesome thing about many workplaces these days, at least the ones Oh My Green has the pleasure to serve, is that they have awesome world-changing missions AND high fidelity rejuvenation built into their daily/weekly culture. This includes healthy/delicious snacks & catering, meditation, yoga & even life/career coaching so that each individual is empowered to live healthfully and empowered to define/live their purpose & values.

Furthermore, all of our customers realize that their people are their most valuable asset and by not only providing for them, but actually empowering them with their personal development they are paving the way to a place where work can be fun, fulfilling & balanced with the rest of the equally important aspects of their life including family, hobbies, physical fitness, traveling, learning, spiritual growth and all the other awesome aspects of the good life.

When I step back and look at the possibilities provided to the people at the companies we work with every week I am amazed at just how much personal care & personal development is provided. Nonetheless, we all must take it upon ourself to actually utilize these resources & build our own version of an empowered life.

So, what if you are suffering from “Workism”? What can you do? Here are 4 ways you can alchemize your work/life:

  • Discover & develop your personal mission. Then make sure this aligns with your company’s mission or find a new company that does align with it. [Here’s a short article with resources for discovering/developing your mission.]

  • Define your personal values and make sure your company respects them (or find one that does). When you consciously know what values create heart & meaning in your life and your work is aligned with them defaulting to unhealthy workism will be a rare occasion.

  • Take a vacation from work. Sign off completely. Put up an email autoresponder. Don’t fucking read a single email or take work calls during your vacation. I’m dead serious. If you are so burnt out from work you can barely think it’s going to be pretty hard to discover or develop your personal mission or reflect on your values. Often times we need to create space and/or inner silence to be able to hear our Spirit or Higher Self’s guidance on our next steps.

  • Get your financial house in order. If you can’t even afford to take a break or risk looking for a new job that actually aligns with your mission & values you’ve become a slave to your job, money has become your master and workism will be your religion. [Here is an article about me facing my own money darkness & here is a progress report on my personal finances from last year.]

  • Take 100% responsibility for your life & your work-life! Even at my own company which has a super powerful mission and lots of empowering life-enhancing benefits, generous PTO, & flexible work arrangements I see plenty of employees getting CRUSHED by workism. I personally tell everyone I can that our mission of “empowering people to live healthy & blissful lives” will NOT be personally served up on a silver platter. Each one of us will have to actively work each day and week to create our personal version of health & bliss. That means setting & holding boundaries around one’s schedule/workload, actively scheduling time off for rejuvenation, and actually taking advantage of all the benefits offered. I believe this holds true for all the tens of thousands of employees we serve at offices across the nation. No company will do all the work of creating a work/life filled with heart, meaning & balance—that is our personal responsibility.

Taking action on any one of these 5 steps will catalyze you towards a life really worth living for! In truth, taking action & taking responsibility really does cure most things. No one can do it for you. Like they say, “You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink.”

Don’t be that horse.


  • Special thanks to our Oh My Green CEO, Michael Heinrich, for sharing the “Workism” article in our company newsletter that spawned this blog post. You continue to be an incredibly empowering leader, mentor & best friend.

  • Additional deep thanks to Derek Thompson for writing the article and making me think so hard about my own work/life, my company, & the companies we serve.

  • Title photo by my dear friend & uber-talented photographer Noelle Johnson.

If Instagram is more your pace:

The Joy of Purposeful Work

Whether it’s putting in solid work for my company Oh My Green, working on closing a new exciting deal, or working on a creative project for Alchemize Life there is just so much joy & satisfaction to be found in the journey & process backed by an authentic purpose.

Old me used to be purposeless & so focused on reaching some self-centered specific goal that I would be completely unaware of all the awesomeness that was abundantly surrounding me throughout the entire process of reaching the goal. This purely self-centered focus on the end goal sabotaged my happiness. I had a limiting belief that until I reached the goal I wasn’t good enough & I could not be happy. Even after goal completion, happiness was fleeting as a new goal arose.

Now I realize two important factors: (1) we must have a purpose greater than ourselves & (2) when we have a strong personal mission the process becomes the prize. Putting in good work is a gift. There is boundless fruit in the labor when we approach it with the right mindset.

Once I developed my personal mission of “empowering people to transform” I finally had a mindset that made all work joyful & gratifying as long as it was in line with my mission.

With a strong purpose, all work becomes similar to a super amped sweaty physical workout. You know it’s hard, but going hard is fun, exhilarating & damn satisfying!

With that in mind, I strive for all my work to be purposeful & filled with meaning. And when you live a life on purpose filled with meaning... happiness & satisfaction is a natural byproduct!

So if you find yourself dreading work, unhappy & unfulfilled it may be time to develop a personal mission. If you don’t know what your personal mission is then YOUR MISSION IS TO DISCOVER & DEVELOP YOUR MISSION! This is truly one of the most awesome missions as it empowers you to use everything & all work to explore & refine your purpose. If you accept this mission you will embark on one of the greatest adventures of your life—self-discovery!

And if you already have a strong mission then I’m preaching to the choir. Like me, you probably love putting in the work just as much, if not more, than crushing the goals!

If you have a mission & feel like sharing it in the comments please do so! It is always inspiring for myself & others to hear all the awesomeness people are up to in this world!


  1. This post was originally an Instagram Post last week, but I thought it was quite fitting to republish on LinkedIn. Give me a follow on IG @justindavidcarl if you would like to be inspired with daily stories of #mindset #motivation #entrepreneurship #fitness & much more!

  2. Some good resources for developing a personal mission: The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey, Living Forward by Michael Hyatt & Daniel Harkavy, The Fire Starter Conversations by Danielle LaPorte.

More empowering creative work from my Instagram:

Reshaping My Money Story: My First Year On The Path To Financial Independence (FI)

Discovering Financial Independence (FI) and realizing the new possibility of living it has been utterly life-changing for me. It’s like I awoke from the Matrix and realized that so much of what I did was out of social & environmental programming. Prior to FI, I was sleepwalking through many areas of my life. Drift was for real.

But with this newfound possibility of FI a whole new reality began to emerge & I was filled with new life! I discovered renewed energy, more creativity, took massive action, achieved newfound abundance & was able to live on purpose in a much deeper way!

For those of you who are reading about Financial Independence for the first time the simplest explanation I can share is that it means your assets generate more than enough income to cover your cost of living. At this point all paid work becomes optional. There are almost an infinite number of ways to achieve this. Some ways include building a massive stock portfolio, rental real estate, passive income endeavors, etc. Why is FI important? Because it empowers you to only do work that you are truly passionate about & truly lead a life of your own design without worrying over whether your chosen work/life design will cover your cost of living. [read this article for more background on my discovery of FI]

I still laugh ironically at my younger self who naively thought he was living without being influenced by outside forces. As I’ve previously written & spoken about before, no matter how hard you try you are (1) the average of the 5 people you spend the most time with, (2) a product of your environment & (3) what you consume—including food, information & experiences. [read this article for more on these three related principles]

In truth, a lot of my major habits around consumption were completely out of whack with my own personal values. My top personal value is Freedom. I’ve now learned just how enslaved to mindless consumption I was since discovering FI. No wonder I was rarely satisfied with life despite the fact that most people would likely consider the outside perspective of my life fairly good & quite successful. When your living is out of sync with your true values it is virtually impossible to find any lasting happiness or peace of mind.

I discovered FI a little over a year ago. This last year has been radical in many ways. 2018 has been a fascinating discovery & rediscovery of what really has true heart & meaning to me, what is not important to me personally, and what progress & success actually mean to me.

Ultimately, this journey to FI is empowering me to radically reshape my money story into one that is filled with redemption, learning, optimization, positivity, personal power, strength, leading by example & so much more!

In this post I will share my major FI achievements, milestones & personal insights from year one on the path to FI.

FI Path Year 1 Achievements & Milestones*:

CampFI Southwest 2018 in Joshua Tree, CA

CampFI Southwest 2018 in Joshua Tree, CA

  • Got caught up from being 6-years behind on my taxes.

  • Finally paid off the last of my debt (originally $40K+ in credit card & school loans). Something I had been carrying for over 15 years.

  • Started tracking income, expenses & net worth with both Mint & Personal Capital.

  • My fiancé became my FI Wife (my official FI Life Parter).

  • Attended my first CampFI with my fiancé. 60+ people gathered together in a desert to learn, discuss all aspects of FI & play! This was one of my highlight experiences of the year! This is also where my fiancé began to discover her “Why of FI”. Plus, I got invited to be a speaker at CampFI Southwest 2019 in Joshua Tree!! [Use “JDC” to get $25 off your ticket].

  • Co-organized a monthly FI Meetup Group that met every month of 2018 and regularly had 30-60+ members show up to each event.

  • Built FI friendships that excite & empower us daily. These add massively to our life quality and I believe many of them will be lifelong flourishing relationships.

  • Started travel hacking, including taking my first all-points trip with my FI Wife.

  • Sold my Range Rover & got a Prius.

  • Started using Gas Buddy

  • Split internet bill with neighbors.

  • Had microwave repaired for $25 at local shop versus spending $100+ for a new one.

  • Started enjoying our company’s complimentary lunch (an awesome employee benefit) & started meeting with more friends who also get complimentary lunch at work. This led me to cultivating more & deeper friendships and radically reduced my monthly food bill.

  • Stopped buying so many books & instead learned to always use the Library.

  • Stopped paying to rent digital movies & tv shows unless they were free with Amazon Prime or on the family Netflix account.

  • Opted for matinee movies & just discovered $6 ticket Tuesdays at my local theater.

  • Learned to use SF Fun Cheap for weekday, weekend & holiday activities instead of paying a ton of money for events.

  • Stopped all subscriptions that were not being fully utilized.

  • Stopped getting so many professional massages (1-3 per month was my old habit; a shit ton of money) & instead learned to give myself a massage using a foam roller, tennis balls, yoga tune up balls, & a selfie-massager. Occasionally my partner and I trade-off massaging each other. This saves money AND is a massive intimacy builder!

  • Opened a Vanguard account.

  • Began investing in in Index Funds (VTSAX & others).

  • Maxed out my 401K for the second year in a row.

  • Completed a Backdoor Roth for 2017 & 2018 [see this article for a great how-to].

  • Tax loss harvested for the first time.

  • Got the Personal Capital call.

  • Grew our yearly income massively! Record earning year for the both of us!

  • Grew our Net Worth by 3.6X+!!

  • Achieved major FU Money [Freedom Unlimited]!!

  • Achieved a 90% monthly savings rate with 75-90% monthly range throughout the year!!

    • In my mind this is my crowning FI achievement (tied with discovering my FI Wife) as this means I only have another 2-5 years before I hit my FI number!!

FI Insights*:

Know your “Why of FI.” If you don’t know why you are after something it won’t be long until an obstacle arises and you give up. With a powerful “Why” you can blast through any blocks that come up (and they will come up). In one word my Why of FI is: FREEDOM!! It’s a deep why for me and probably deserves its own blog post to really get into the nitty gritty details.

FI is a Superpower. FI creates massive personal freedom. It empowers me to do what I truly want to do and avoid doing things I don’t really want to do. Personal Freedom in all that you do is like living with a Superpower.

FI is a Mindset, Philosophy & Life Optimization System. At its core, I believe FI is a mindset and way of living that guides all aspects of your life towards living in harmony with what has true heart & meaning to you at your deepest levels. It encourages us to optimize all areas of life to live in accordance with our deepest values. When we live in harmony with our True Self… Happiness is a natural byproduct!

Personal Finance & FI are a muscle. Learn & grow by doing. Confidence & strength is built through experience. If you’ve never gone to a gym a lifted weights it can be pretty scary and intimidating at first. You are weak at first AND you don’t really know what you are doing. But you keep going. Little by little you get stronger. Your understanding & knowledge of your body grows. The tools at hand to improve & strengthen your body become familiar. Your all around fitness expertise deepens. This is all done through incremental improvement.

Personal finance is the same. It’s something you can build to become incredibly strong. But you gotta start training. And you gotta keep training to keep it strong. For years I avoided taking control of my personal finances despite being great at making money because I was scared and didn’t know what to do.

Over the last few years I’ve learned that almost always the best way to learn is by doing. Sure you make mistakes along the way, but many people wiser than me claim that mistakes are the best teacher. I strongly agree with this fundamental concept.

This first year on the path to FI I hit the personal finance gym daily. Each week I got stronger. Each week I got more confident in what I was doing.

Money is energy. The better you manage it the better your life. Like all energy (physical, mental, emotional, spiritual) it can be cultivated and it can be squandered. Taking the time to develop habits & systems to cultivate it will empower your life in incredible ways. You can use it to transform your life and the lives of others.

Energy flows where focus goes. Prior to discovering FI I had no idea what my savings rate was, how much money I was losing to debt interest every month, had no clue I was bleeding money left & right from unused subscriptions & non value aligned expenditures. The inefficiencies & pain around money management goes on. At work, I had no real reason to challenge myself to make more money and do even better. Hell, I didn’t even know what I was making every month. The ignorance was there because of all the money shame I had been carrying. After I faced the shame I realized had no authentic “Why” when it come to money in my life. Once I made FI my overarching focus I started optimizing my entire life—career/work, personal finances, relationships, & more. The change in 1-year has been nothing short of remarkable!

If your personal finances are strong & growing it makes healing, growing & positively transforming in all other areas of life much easier & way more fun! Money to support our basic needs (shelter, food & water) & a good standard of living empowers us to work on other life areas from a position of strength & abundance (versus a position of weakness & scarcity).

If you’re wracked with fear about how you are going to pay for next month’s rent & food that is where all your energy goes. At this level it’s pretty much impossible to focus well on any other areas of growth—i.e. relationships, fitness, health, spiritual growth, service, etc.

Once you have your personal finances strong & growing you have massive amounts of mental, emotional, physical and spiritual energy to apply to the other important areas of a life worth living for.

Build money management systems & automate as much as possible. Set up the systems and let them do the heavy lifting. Get every single bill on automatic payment (after getting rid of as many bills as possible of course). Have your company automatically max out your 401K & other retirement accounts. Automatically invest surplus income. Take the human thinking/doing out of as much of the wealth building process as possible. This is how I grew my Net Worth so drastically this past year. I set up the systems and then several months later I was like “Holy Shit!! My Stash’ has grown like those magical beans from the mythical story of Jack & The Beanstalk!”

Do everything you can to slow down and/or reset Hedonic Adaptation. Almost all humans suffer from being on a Hedonic Treadmill. Once we get the newest iThing, we are happy momentarily. But it isn’t long before a new iThing comes out, we want it, and our happiness leaps back into the future. We are once again back at “once I achieve                      then I will be happy.”

This never enough, never satisfied, satisfaction short-lived way of living pervades every area of our life—home, cars, stuff, career, relationships, fitness, etc. While one could argue that this mental state encourages us to always strive for more it is a slippery slope. Without thoughtful reflection the default thinking for most of us is “more” which is often accompanied by feelings of “not enough.”

The negative side of this never satisfied style of living is that it leads us to be unhappy with our actual present moment life because we are stuck with attitude of never-enough-wanting more-grass-is-greener-on-the-other-side-once-I-reach-this-future-thing/event-THEN-I-will-be-happy-mentality. The only place that we actually live is in the present. From present moment to present moment.

The key is to strive for growth in all areas which includes planning for the future while simultaneously living in the present. Otherwise, if you are are just focused on your future happiness, you will create unhappiness in your present.

An awesome yoga teacher of mine recently shared this amazing quote with our class that really brought this paradox into focus for me. It goes like this:

“If your happiness is in the future then that is where it will remain.”

By practicing FI & using Negative Visualization you are often able to avoid Hedonic Adaptation or at least slow it down significantly. These practices bring you powerfully into the abundance of your present moment. The result is greater satisfaction with what you have and this leads naturally to higher levels of joy & gratitude for your actual life in the present moment no matter how close or far you are from your goals. [Negative Visualization is a stoic mental technique that empowers you to combat Hedonic Adaptation & be grateful for exactly what you have & where you are at in life. Read this short Instagram Micro Blog for deeper understanding.]

Frugality makes doing things even more creative, fun & valuable. I learned this from my regular reading of Mr. Money Mustache (aka MMM). When you take the mental energy & time to figure out how to do things for free or frugally you end up getting super creative & end up having way more fun during the process than if you had just taken the easy/lazy route & spent hard-earned money. Adding intention into what you are doing (versus mindless consumption) makes you value it more too. Again, when you value what you have, life is filled with greater gratitude & satisfaction.

Infrequency & intermittent abstinence heightens satisfaction. Now when I do spend money on something like getting a professional massage it feels wildly decadent & delicious. By foregoing extravagant things a majority of the time it makes me deeply appreciate them at a much deeper level when I do partake. It literally encourages me to more deeply value my monetary investment & accompanying experience. When you have something every day or every week/month you speed up your Hedonic Adaptation. When I got massages all the time I was constantly comparing each experience against all the others. I.E. “This massage wasn’t nearly as good as the one I had last week.” Compare this with: “Holy sweet Buddha! I haven’t had the luxury of a massage in several months and this just feels sublime!” In the first example there is virtually no satisfaction for the experience. In the second example I’m experiencing divinity.

What I really love to do costs little to nothing. Learning, reading, creative endeavors, fitness in numerous forms, movement, nature, spiritual communion, spending time w/ people I love & admire, etc. As a Life Alchemist pretty much all my pursuits involve healing, growing & transforming in one form or another. With a FI Mindset most of it can be done by spending little to nothing.

Long term goals drive daily energy & focus. Once I solidified FI as my 3-year overarching goal everything came into sharp focus. Suddenly I knew exactly what I needed to do each day, week, month, & year. This clarity gave me massive energy, drive & focus. I became a man on FIRE!!

FI empowered me to fall deeply back in love with my career & work: Through my discovery of FI and my commitment to getting on the path I realized at the deepest level just how incredibly luck I am—I have a career I love AND I get to do work that I deeply believe in! [I am a founding team member of a Stanford Startup—Oh My Green.]

Helping to build & lead a Stanford Startup was & is one of my biggest lifetime dreams. For the longest awhile I took it for granted. Then I discovered FI & strategies for combating Hedonic Adaptation and I fell deeply back in love with what I get to do each & every week.

Additionally, my Stanford Startup dream is propelling me along at a fast clip to reach my FI. Wait!! I can be living a major life dream & building towards FI?! Life is truly grand!!

FU Money makes work even more fun: With FU Money & the power of FI behind me I get to play full out at work! I can push past boundaries & limiting beliefs with abandon. This led me to have a record breaking year at work. No longer am I playing small or playing cautiously because I am worried about making mistakes and losing my job or my company going under. In truth, I no longer need my job for basic survival. This empowers me to become the best I can be at the fastest speed possible. Plus, there is even more work/FI synergy at hand: I lead sales for my company so the more I grow, the more my company grows!

Community is key. Leverage the hive mind. Life is lived through the people in our life. We are not meant to undertake this journey alone. And the best way to go far is to go together. A digital community is great, but an In Real Life (IRL) community is even better! Either find or create a local FI community like I did and/or visit some of the major FI Meetups & Events around the world like CampFI, Chautauqua, FinCon, etc. I regularly find new strategies & inspiration for my path to FI through my local community & those I met at CampFI.

No matter where you live or what your income you can optimize your expenses & avoid lifestyle creep. I live in one of the highest costs of living places in the world (Menlo Park/Silicon Valley). Through intelligent & strategic design I have optimized & continue to optimize my expenses.

No only have I slashed my living costs, I also avoid lifestyle creep (aka lifestyle inflation). The fact is that as most people increase their income from all sources they also increase their spending on all sources. Some people want fancy cars, restaurants & bigger/nicer homes, etc. I want freedom first.

For the record, I pass no judgement on fancy cars, homes, meals, etc. I am just optimizing for my freedom first. That is my order of personal preference.

Also, for the record: I do live a somewhat unconventional life from what many might consider normal living in Silicon Valley but two important ideas come to mind: (1) I’ve always believed myself to be somewhat of a contrarian & (2) if you can live like no one else now, then you can live like no one else later. As a self-diagnosed rebel with a cause, both of these come naturally to me.

Instead of “Working Years Until Retirement” I prefer:

“Working Years Until All Paid Work Becomes Optional.”

Photo Credit: Mr.Money Mustache

Choose a keystone metric of success: I decided to focus on my Monthly Savings Rate as the overarching metric that I would use to measure my success on the path to FI. This was inspired by the life-alchemizing article “The Shockingly Simple Math Behind Early Retirement.” I will probably always attribute that article to my FI Awakening. After reading & internalizing that article I realized that Freedom Unlimited (the ability to only do work that you love in an amount of time that you feel is healthy & fun) was totally within my grasp and the timeline to it was purely a product of my ability to maximize this one metric!

This resulted in me getting my savings rate to 90% by the end of my first year on the path to FI. And this means I only have another 2-5 years until I reach my version of FI!! Knowing I am so close is incredibly empowering, energizing, & exciting!!

The reason this metric is so empowering is because it is in your control! It is a function of your monthly take-home-pay minus your monthly expenses. [See this article for more background on how to calculate it.]

Monthly expenses are completely in our control. We can optimize for less expensive housing, more efficient cars & commuting, eating at home more, not buying random shit we don’t really need, doing fun & creative things that are free or frugal, etc.

On the other side of the equation we can always work towards making more money through raises, commission based work, a new job with better compensation, side hustles, etc.

Ultimately, as the business management luminary Peter Drucker said,

“What gets measured gets managed.”

By using this one metric as my definition of success I was able to quickly become a man on FIRE!!

Understand & leverage the power of compounding marginal gains. Saving on internet & phone bills, reducing one’s cost of car ownership, keeping rent/mortgage as low as possible, & reducing costs wherever one can is incredibly powerful. It is amazingly powerful on both sides of the FI equation. As you reduce your annual cost of living you need less to hit your FI number AND your savings rate goes up because your monthly net take home (income minus expenses) increases, thus empowering one to save & invest more at a faster rate. This allows us to take greater advantage of what Einstein deemed the 8th wonder of the world—Compound Interest!

Keep an internal locus of control. Focus your mind & energy only on what you can control and/or have a significant level of influence over. We cannot control whether the stock market goes up or down. However, we can control our monthly expenses and we can significantly increase our monthly income through numerous ways—raises & commissions for high performance at work, acquiring rental real estate, developing side hustles, etc. I first learned about this concept from Stephen Covey’s “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People”. I further ingrained it into my consciousness by reading this article from MMM, this article from Get Rich Slowly, and studying Stoicism (that seems to be its origin). [this is my favorite book on stoicism]

FI & FU Money give us massive personal power. #FIFU empowers us to avoid worrying about financial disaster. By having FU Money you are not worried about losing your job, a recession, or some other catastrophe the Universe throws your way. With your Freedom Unlimited fund you are good to roll with the punches and can take a playful approach in all that you do in life. Being on the path to FI means you have your cost of living under control so no matter what happens you will come out okay or great. This dynamic empowers you to operate from a position of STRENGTH versus a position of FEAR.

Mentally & emotionally, when you have a FIFU plan in place, the worry associated with wondering about your job security or if your startup is going to make it begins to fade away. Even if disaster strikes you have a well-managed Stash (and maybe some side-hustles) that will empower you to weather any storm. Worry starts to transform into increasing optimism as you begin to realize that with FIFU & flexibility you can handle anything. Like I mentioned before, FI is a superpower.

The Happiness of Pursuit. It’s not the destination, it’s the journey you are on and who you are on the journey with. In one my favorite books, “The Obstacle Is The Way,” the author taught me this idea that has fundamentally changed my approach to life. That idea is:

“The process is the prize.”
— Ryan Holiday, The Obstacle Is The Way

I’d add to it and say that the process & the people are the prize. Whether it’s growing a Stanford startup, growing my muscles, growing my relationship with my partner or growing my Stash’ so I can reach FI the real treasure is the journey itself and the people I am on the journey with.

This adventure that I am on is why I love my job/career so much—I work with brilliant, vibrant souls doing work that empowers me to learn & grow while living out my personal mission. Meaningful work creates a meaningful life.

On the home front, I have so much fun figuring out this FI Adventure with my FI Wife! Learning & growing together is one of the best aspects of a great relationship.

Plus, I have all these other real & virtual friends across the world with similar overarching life goals, interests & personal values. Interacting with them weekly brings life to my life!

The journey of life is just so wildly fun when you’re rolling with a powerful crew who excite & teach you new awesome stuff all the time!

There are infinite paths to FI and we each can find the way that is personally fun & exciting: I am and have always been a bit of an extremist. My Life Partner is quite a bit more balanced. When I first discovered FI I went on a rampage cutting as much non-essential spending as possible. I cut my spending to the bone in very short order. I dumbly expected my partner to follow. When she didn’t I nagged her about it. This led to bickering and breakdowns in our relationship. I stubbornly learned that her path to FI is going to be different than mine AND we can still do it together!

Now she lets me be as extreme FI as I want and I let her take her own journey. The ironic part is that as soon as I stopped worrying about her path to FI and stopped putting pressure on her she started surprising me regularly with her own FI super moves.

What we’ve since discovered is that we place different values on different things. Shocking, right? Sure, we have plenty of overlap, but we also have some key differences. Eating out is one of them. Ever since I was young I’ve severely disliked spending my money on dining out. It always felt like wastefully eating my money. I did it for much of life because I thought I had to live up to other people’s standards, but most of the time I would be left feeling like I had just done something that didn’t sit right with my true self. Now that I’ve embraced FI I realized I can be the frugal weirdo who rarely goes out to eat on his own dime. That doesn’t mean I won’t eat for free at my work or another friend’s company lunch as they are job benefits (one of the many great benefits of working in Silicon Valley). And though I enjoy great food my mindset has always been “I eat to live.”

For others, like my partner, food is an experience. And when shared with others its value is magnified. I can totally respect this. Understanding and respecting one another’s personal values is another key part of a great relationship.

I now encourage my partner to eat out with her friends and family as often as she pleases. In return, she empowers me to eat at home as much as I want. It works great for us! We both get to live our values with no judgement on the other’s actions & decision.

For the record: Even after being on the path to FI I do occasionally go out to eat and pay for it. I recently had Dim Sum with some of my Stanford Classmates, paid for my fiancé & I to eat it, and had a truly divine experience I’ll never forget (review insight about infrequency above).

Teamwork makes the dream work: Getting on page with your Life Partner and family is absolutely crucial to making the path to FI actually work. Same goes with your friends. I am still learning how to share my FI Path with my Life Partner, my family, & my non-FI friends & colleagues but so far everyone who know is on board with me being on this journey and they often make suggestions and/or create opportunities for me to fully live my FI Path! What is really awesome is that the more you team up the faster you go and the more fun you have!

Constantly Fuel the FIRE (blogs, books, podcasts, meetups, events, etc): Like anything worthwhile it takes constant cultivating to keep it alive in your life. This past year I fed my path to FI daily by reading at least one MMM article per day and listening to at least one episode of ChooseFI or The Mad Fientist each week.

Through my reading/listening program I was constantly reprogramming my mind every single day to think with a FI mindset.

I then doubled down with FI empowering books & regularly meeting with other FI people in real life through my monthly FI Meetup and attending my first CampFI with my fiancé.

More than a year later I am still keeping these cultivation habits alive daily, weekly, & monthly. Remember, you are what you consume. This includes information & experiences. So consume with empowering intent!

It’s never too late to get on the Path to FI. I started in my mid-30s, but I’ve personally met & read about many who got started in their 40s, 50s, 60s, 70s & beyond! They say the best to time to plant a tree is yesterday, but the second best time is today!

FI is a journey not a destination so make it as FUN as possible: I cannot emphasize just how important this one is! FI can be a very long journey and if you are miserable and not having fun while on it then you are literally wasting your life! And if you are miserable on the path to FI you will likely be miserable when you are FI.

So, don’t frugal yourself into a corner by avoiding all things that cost money. Some things and some experiences are worth every dollar you spend on them. The key is to become a Valuist—one who spends money on stuff (things & experiences) that adds real value to one’s life while optimizing for the best price.

Deep down I believe Life & FI are a game and they are meant to be played to maximize FUN! I am doing everything in my power to make this journey as fun as possible and recruiting everyone around me to have fun too whether they are on the FI Path or not. [BTW: Fun is probably tied for first for my top personal value if you haven’t figured that out yet.]

RE is optional. Traditionally F-I-R-E stands for Financial Independence Retire Early. A lot of people balk at the thought of retiring early. And in some sense I do too. I love to work, create & build out dreams. Hence, I’ve redefined what FIRE means to me. In my mind the RE is optional. As mentioned above I’m absolutely in love with my job & my career. Plus, as a founding team member of my company (employee #4) I plan to live out this Stanford Startup dream at least until we (1) go public, (2) get acquired or (3) go out of business. I’m doing everything I can to help us reach option one! I plan to continue working with our awesome company after going public as I’m having loads of fun, constantly learning/growing & I deeply believe in what we are doing

Be the Lighthouse. Be the Lantern Bearer. Be the Captain of your ship. We are all on different parts on the Path of Life and the Path to FI. Many still struggle with personal finances whether it’s dealing with debt or taxes, managing cash flow & expenses, earning & saving more, ad infinitum.

We all have to room grow in Life & FI. Nonetheless, you may be further along than someone you know well. By sharing your journey you serve another on their journey. By sharing what you are learning you can empower your family, your friends, your colleagues, your community & your world!!

We are all in this together remember? There is nothing more valuable to those struggling & lost in the dark than a bright shining beacon of light. Be that light!

And remember, even with a lighthouse or lantern we all must put in the individual work to reach it and to carry it forward for others when we get there. Gods help those who help themselves. Don’t expect someone else to row your boat and don’t row someone else’s boat. Teach them to row their own boat through the darkness towards the light. Same concept as the parable of giving a man a fish to feed him for a day versus teaching him to fish so that he can eat for a lifetime. The best way to do this is by leading by example & sharing openly about what has & has not worked for you.

Be the Lighthouse. Be the Lantern Bearer. Be the Captain of your ship.

FI Year 2 & Beyond:

Some current & future FI goals include:

  • Have massive amounts of fun on the path to FI with my FI Wife (my #1 goal).

  • Serve as a FI leading example to family & friends.

  • Continue to build my IRL & online FI community.

  • Maintain 80-90%+ savings rate.

  • Automate more.

  • Take more trips with points.

  • Reduce monthly cellphone bill.

  • Get an estate plan in place for both parents.

  • Develop additional side hustle that generates $500+/month.

  • Explore other investment strategies (real estate, peer-to-peer, etc)

  • Reach my FI in 2-5 years.

Now that I’ve completely reshaped my money story from one of victimhood to one of ever-increasing growth & victory the future is bright & full of possibility! I’m thoroughly enjoying the new money story I tell about myself, TO MYSELF, & to others!

Is my work done? Heck no! This is a lifelong practice and I’m excited & grateful to be on the lifelong journey—continuously growing stronger & wiser! This empowers me to not only serve myself, but to also serve others at the same damn time! How awesome is that?! It’s like having your cake, eating it, and still being in awesome shape!

I’d love to hear from readers about your Money Story & your path to FI as I’m always looking for thoughtful reflections, new strategies, ideas & insights! I’m also open to new goals & areas for exploration! Please comment below or drop me a note on one of my socials!

With love & alchemy,

Justin David Carl—aka Mr. Money Alchemist (MMA)**

End Notes:

*Good chance there are more achievements, milestones & insights, but I’m still mentally reviewing the first year. I will update the article with additional ones as they are mentally recognized.

**I’m officially claiming the nickname “Mr. Money Alchemist (MMA)” in homage to Mr. Money Mustache (MMM) as he has been such a massive & awesome empowering influence in my life & continues to be every single day.

Follow my Instagram (pictures below) for loads of empowering content or interact with me on Facebook & LinkedIn.

My Fall/Winter Morning Homebrew Power Tonic

In the past I’ve had my fair share of anxiety and depression, especially during the darker months of the year.

I’ve also had lots of concerns over my physical fitness & mental health in general.

Over the last several years I feel like I’ve figured out a ton & come up with a systematic approach of proactivity & prevention.

Here is one cup from my Life Happiness Kit:

I’ve been gathering rosemary & lavender from my local neighborhood & adding it to my morning tea which is also infused with ceylon cinnamon & mushroom powder. Talk about a power tonic that lights my mind & body on fire!! 🤓🔥🌱🧬☕️✨💪🏼

There is something super magical about foraging in your own neighborhood. I believe we are deeply connected to Earth & that she is always providing natural medicine in our environment to heal, protect & invigorate us! The more local the more powerful! 

There has been research done that shows that local & self-grown food actually provides the exact micronutrients our bodies are deficient in—simply amazing how connected we are to Gaia! 

When I think about this Earth Connection that is available to us all I always think about the scene in the movie Avatar where they all plug into the Mother Tree & give new life to the main character. Seriously awesome! 🌳🧬

Also, as many are already aware, I’m an energy obsessed mind & body #LifeAlchemist so I like to alchemize my tonic even further by brewing it in a cup of Earl Grey tea along with adding a natural #fatburner & #nootropic stack into the mix! 😅

See notes below for ingredients & benefits:


-antioxidants and anti-inflammatory

-improves digestion

-enhances memory & concentration

-neurological protection. ...

-prevent brain aging

-cancer protection

-protection against macular degeneration


-treats anxiety, stress & depression



-promotes hair growth

-keeps acne at bay

NeuroShroom Mushroom Powder by Primal Herb:

-This super blend of nootropic mushrooms & other powerful herbs has Lions Mane Mushroom, Reishi Spores & more! Further notes on the plethora of benefits in the link below.

-get it on Amazon:

Ceylon Cinnamon:

-supports healthy blood sugar levels

-promotes heart/circulatory health

-helps support fat metabolism

-get it on Amazon: 

Earl Grey Tea by Stash:

-I grew up w/ my mom brewing earl grey everyone morning. The smell of a cup of earl grey just brings me childhood joy & magic.

-black tea has a good shot of caffeine which is an energy & mood booster as well as an appetite suppressant.

-bergamot oil enhances mood, reduces stress, stimulates circulation, improves digestion, & alleviates pain

-get it on Amazon:

Gather Up & Garden The Magic In Your life

I highly encourage everyone to get out in your local neighborhood & forage! This can be done in cities too! Just google “city foraging” & “urban foraging” & learn this magical skill for yourself!

Walking your neighborhood will bring you massive joy & appreciation for your life. I do my best to walk regularly no matter the weather. There is no such thing as inappropriate weather. There is just inappropriate clothing & gear.

On a similar note, growing your own life empowering garden is another super powerful Life Skill—thanks for the awesome upbringing and positive influence Mom & Dad! And major shoutout to my partner Carly for bringing this skill back into my everyday life!

Happy Alchemizing everyone! 


UPDATE: I’ve been rotating my earl grey tea with Chai to enjoy the benefits of cardamom oil—a key ingredient in most Chai.

End Notes:

-The act of foraging was inspired by the awesome book “The Finnish Way” by Katja Pantzar. It’s also where I solidified the concept about getting outside no matter the weather (just wear appropriate clothing/gear). It’s something I was sometimes good about, but not always. Now I have clear understanding & process to follow.

-My walking habit forever fueled by the truly magical book “The Wander Society” by Keri Smith. This book fundamentally changed my life.

Lots more life empowering content on my Instagram:

You Must Do The Thing You Think You Cannot Do: A Ride Along Guide To Doing Challenging Things That Will Change Your Life

“I can’t do that. I’m not ready. That’s not who I am.”

Those were the first thoughts that entered my mind. Filled with fear of the unknown my mind tried to convince me to pass on the opportunity.

Without even giving it a chance, my mind said "No." Avoiding adversity & discomfort was its priority.

Fortunately, something in my heart was stirred. A sleeping giant began to awaken from the request.

The Back Story:

The Four Seasons Silicon Valley in Palo Alto reached out to me on Instagram. They were looking to partner with a local online influencer in the fitness/wellness space to spread awareness about the inaugural RBC Gran Fondo Silicon Valley event they were hosting.

A "Gran Fondo" means "Big Ride" in italian and this event would be composed of 1000+ cyclists covering approximately 75-miles & 7000 feet of elevation gain through the lush land of Northern California. The ride would start at the Four Seasons in Palo Alto and then go up & over the Santa Cruz mountains to the Ocean and back.

I was honored by the invitation, but my mind was screaming "You're not a cyclist! You don't even have a proper bike! And you've never done more than 10-15 miles on a bike and you have no training climbing a massive hill! Don't do this! You will look like a fool! You will fail! And what will people think when you do?!"

During my meeting with the hotel staff in charge of the event I wanted to say "No thanks, I'm not a cyclist" but fortunately I kept my mouth shut and told them I would think about it. I left the meeting doubting myself.

That evening I shared the opportunity with my partner. She quietly listened to me rant about how I wasn't a cyclist and how I should turn this opportunity down because it wasn't who I was and it would be too much effort for not enough reward. My limited mind was winning the battle…

Fortunately, my fiancé is a visionary and pretty much always sees infinite possibility when I'm self-sequestering myself in a dark corner. After I had finished explaining to her how I couldn't do it she pointed out a few things I missed.

  1. It's the Four Seasons--one of the most powerful brands worldwide with immaculate & stunning properties in many of the most amazing places across the globe. I'd be foolish not to work with them.

  2. This was an amazing opportunity to grow my positive influence & create a positive impact upon a greater audience by partnering with an awesome company.

  3. My whole message is about empowering people to transform & self-actualize. Here was an opportunity for me to transform & openly share the process with others.

I wasn't fully convinced, but I did decide to sleep on it.

Something awoke while my mind slept that night. The next morning, first thing upon waking, I emailed the Four Seasons and committed to doing the cycling event.

It wasn’t until after officially committing to the Opportunity that the real magic began to happen.

With only 5-days until the event, I didn't even have a bike. At least not one with actual gears that allow you to climb a mountain. I didn't have a helmet or shoes. I definitely didn't have the ever so crucial riding bib--this is the thing you wear to protect your crotch & tailbone from being injured from excessive riding on a hard ass bicycle seat for several hours.

I didn't know how to clip into pedals, change gears, or climb insane hills on a bike.

Yet, the mind is an amazing machine. When you give it clear direction, purpose, a goal & officially make a decision its gears begin to whir and figure it all out.

I started sharing with my work colleagues that I was going to do the event and soon enough I found out that one of my best friends at my company, Henry Edelson, was super interested in doing the event with me as a an avid cyclist. I reached out to the Four Seasons and asked if he could participate with me and they were more than happy to have him join me. Now I had a partner for the journey!

I kept talking about the event with the people in my life and soon discovered that our Head of Culinary at Oh My Green, Deryck, was also a longtime cyclist and one of his favorite things to do was get people into cycling. He also just happened to get back his loaner bike he lends out like a gateway-drug to get people hooked on the sport. He happily let me know I could borrow it and find out if I enjoyed the sport and that if I ended up liking it I could borrow it until I was ready to get my own. He also had extra shoes & a helmet.

On Tuesday, 4 days from the event, Derrick & I linked up and miraculously the bike, shoes & helmet fit perfectly. For those who are unfamiliar with cycling like myself, having the bike fit your body size is absolutely integral to going long distances without ruining your body.

And for the record, the bike wasn't some beater. Nope! It was a few years old Bianchi, the oldest bike company in the world. It wasn't the absolute latest & greatest, but it was the top of the line when it was released. More than good enough for me.

Next up was figuring out my riding uniform. I reached out to the rest of Oh My Green executive team and asked if they would like to sponsor the uniform for me & my colleague so we could represent our company in the event. Our company mission is to "empower people to live healthy & blissful lives" and supporting a local mission-aligned event & two company team members living the mission in real life was right on par with the company's endeavors. Suddenly we were sponsored riders.

I found us super sleek Pedal Mafia riding uniforms at Cognition Cyclery in San Mateo, California through a recommendation of another colleague at another company who was a triathlete. 

While I was working on the gear I would need for the cycling event I also reached out to Braden Torras of Alpine Northwest, a super talented videographer (among many other things) and Avni of Glass Locket Film, a delightfully gifted photographer, to see if they would be willing to cover the event with high fidelity photo & video. They were both thrilled at the opportunity to work with the Four Seasons in Silicon Valley. I'm still amazed they were both available on such short notice in addition to all of the gear lining up so magically, but like Ralph Waldo Emerson said,

Once you make a decision, the Universe conspires to make it happen.

With only a few days left until the 75-mile ride I had everything I would need to fully participate. I even got in two short 6-8 miles rides on my new-to-me bike to learn how to clip in and change gears before the event.

On Friday night I checked my team into the Four Seasons Hotel in East Palo Alto, registered for the ride, signed a liability waiver, got my race number and had an epic team dinner around a fireplace on the patio of The Quattro Restaurant--the extremely elegant italian restaurant nestled in the corner of the hotel. Nothing like fueling up on a divine dinner with friends & family over the fireplace before a big journey. There was something tribal & mystical about the fireside dinner. A throwback to a time when we would gather next to the heat of the fire under the stars, shares stories & fuel up together for an upcoming journey.

The Ride of a Lifetime:

The morning of the event was magic in its own right. During the spring & summer months I tend to naturally wake up very early, usually 3-5am. I also tend to have incredibly high energy in the beginning of the day. So I was up early as usual, around 4am. My energy was flowing at an all-time high. I wasn't bouncing off walls. No, this energy was like a strong pulsating bass-line pumping throughout my being. Not frenetic, but instead a powerful rumble like thunder in the distance.

I had chosen to sleep in my own bed at home and meet my team at the hotel in the morning so that I could get the best sleep possible. I methodically gathered my gear and greeted the day with my fiance’.

Yoga at the rooftop pool of the Four Seasons Palo Alto. [yoga mat by    Apeiron   ]

Yoga at the rooftop pool of the Four Seasons Palo Alto. [yoga mat by Apeiron]

First on the days agenda was a video/photo shoot at the gorgeous rooftop pool of the Four Seasons. The idea was to capture me preparing for this event as I would normally. And that we did!

My typical daily warm-up includes yoga & intentional movement. Avni captured pictures of me in various poses, while Braden caught me rising with the sun on a drone. It was superbly epic and a very powerful way to start the day.

Next up was changing into my actual riding uniform and lining up for the start of ride with my colleague Henry and capturing all of that on film & video. This is when things started to get real wild.

Henry & I lining up for start of the Gran Fondo.

Henry & I lining up for start of the Gran Fondo.

There were 1000+ riders getting ready to go out for this Big Ride. We were being grouped together in waves and there were numerous countdowns as each group got released.

It was loud, crazy & I loved every minute of it! I could literally feel the anticipation of all the other riders washing over me adding to my own.

While waiting for our wave of riders to get released onto the course, Avni snapped shots & Braden filmed while I double checked I had everything for the ride and scarfed down some of Henry's food. Normally, I fast until noon or later but I figured I better have something in my stomach for the long journey ahead.

The starting gun went off and our group started the course. Henry & I rolled out with some celebratory hoots, hollers & goodbyes to our crew (and of course some expressions of love to the ever supportive fiancé).

As we started out I checked in with myself. I felt good on the bike and mentally told myself "I can do this!" During the first 10 minutes of the ride Henry proceeded to share stories about David Goggins--a navy seal & ultra endurance athlete who has an insane story of how he got into endurance sports. I was both inspired & intimidated by these stories. Henry said Goggin’s story reminded me of him in how he didn't train for his first foray into endurance sports.

The first part of the cycling event went fairly well until we hit our first major intersection with cars and a stop light. We were on a hill in a group of about 60 riders and when the light turned green I panicked getting clipped in, my foot slipped, and I slammed my knee into the pedal. Mild bleeding & pain ensued. We were only 20 minutes into the hours long course. Not the best start, but at least I was still able to continue on.

One thing that really hit me right within those first 10-20 minutes of the ride was how friendly and awesome the community of riders were. RBC Gran Fondo definitely built a special culture with their cycling events. We all chatted as we road together getting to know one another. Funny enough, people could hardly believe this was my first cycling event saying that I "looked like professional cyclist." Nothing like a sweet bike & cycling outfit to help me fake it. Being in fairly good shape from my numerous weekly fitness activities didn't hurt either.

Next up was my first major hill climb--something which I had no practice or training with. Fortunately, I spent some of those first 30 minutes chatting through hill climbing strategy with Henry so at least conceptually I had an understanding of how to use the gears and my body together to climb hardcore inclines. It wasn't long until I had to put theory into practice on the infamous Kings Mountain.

Other riders had shared Henry's climbing philosophy saying things like "don't try to be a hero and blast up the mountain, just get into your lowest gear and put in steady & constant work."

Kings Mountain was a total beast. Miles of climbing through lush Redwood forests. It was epically beautiful with ever increasing stunning views as we continued the ascent. 

Honestly, just looking up at the radical grades gave me shivers, but when I focused on just putting in the work for a few grueling miles I realized, "Holy fuck! I can do this! I can climb massive hills on a bike!"

My strategy to get up this beautiful mountain quickly evolved into just picking a rider or two in front of me and keeping pace with them. I didn't try to pass them up. I just followed along as best I could. I really had no idea how to pace myself so I figured it was better to model other riders who were surely more experienced than me.

When things got really hard, and they did, I would chant to myself, "I am strong. I am worthy." Over and over again I would say these empowering words and magically it seemed to draw forth inner strength I didn't know I had. Up the hill I climbed. And climbed.

Ultimately, I conquered Kings Mountain and made it to the first rest stop. And this is where I made my first major mistake.

Normally, I am a super healthy eater. Massive amounts of vegetables and lean proteins make up the majority of my food consumption. Very little processed junky food. However, at the first rest stop there were some not so healthy options (along with some good healthy options) that included M&M's, cookies, and other sweets chalk full of refined sugar and other manmade ingredients I can't even pronounce, much less have any understanding of what they are or where they came from. Most of the time I avoid stuff like this, but after spending a couple hours climbing a ridiculous hill I figured my body could use all the fuel it could get. "Heck, I still got a few more hours in the saddle and I'll be burning massive calories all day long. I can afford to eat some junk," I thought to myself. I proceeded to gobble down a few handfuls of M&M's and other sugary treats. Within minutes I was sky-high on one of the most addictive drugs ever known to mankind--refined sugar.

This first rest stop was also the beginning of my 2nd major mistake. They were handing out gel packs, the ones endurance athletes use to quickly get sodium and calories into their bodies during long grueling races. These ones also happened to contain a 20mg hit of caffeine. I grabbed about 5 of them and put them into my pocket to help me get through the rest of the ride.

During the climb of Kings Mountain Henry had went ahead at his own pace. As a regular cyclist my beginner pace was a bit slow for him, plus he wanted to see what he had so he pushed on ahead. He waited for me at first rest stop so we could start the next leg of the journey together.

After fueling up our bodies, using the restrooms and doing a little bit of stretching we hit the road again. This is where my 3rd major mistake began. 

At least half of the next leg was downhill. Similar to climbing massive hills on bikes, I haven't ever gone down miles long stretches of downhill road on a bike.

Irregardless of my inexperience, I bombed down the hills on my bike with Henry. We took turns leading. It was goddamn exhilarating! And despite it being fairly scary as a beginner, my adrenaline was pumping so high that it wasn't too hard to overcome the fear and just hyper-focus on scanning the road ahead for upcoming turns and objects on the road that could end my ride (or my life).

There is something about having to be so focused on the task at hand that pushes you into a state of flow. One where time ceases to exist, your Spirit comes alive, and life just feels so grand. Flying down a road on a human-powered mechanical machine at speeds up to 50+ mph definitely did that for me.

I ended up surviving & thriving through my first major downhill traverse on the bike, but when it was time to climb the next hill I hit my first massive roadblock. Within 10-15 seconds of beginning the next hill climb both my quads completely cramped up and my knees locked out. In other words, both my legs were stuck completely straight and I couldn't even bend my knees.

Somehow I managed to get myself to the side of the road without crashing and I laid down. Without having to worry about not crashing my bike I put all my mental energy into attempting to bed my knees. I couldn't do it. My legs were stuck straight. Henry hadn’t even noticed I had fallen behind and was already out of sight.

Amazingly, I didn't panic. Instead I told myself I would be patient and think this through & evaluate my options.

Within moments of analysis I realized why my legs had cramped up so bad. The entire 20-30 minute downhill ride I had ridden in a crouched position with my pedals parallel to one another and both my legs holding up my entire body weight. Essentially, I had held a staggered squat for close to half an hour. Pumped full of adrenaline & overly focused on making it down the hill safely I had managed to do this, but now that the adrenaline had left me and it was time to get back to the slow & steady work of climbing a hill my legs were completely toast.

I later learned that when you are bombing down hills you have to keep your legs moving and take time sitting down on the seat to allow your legs to recover. Otherwise if you hold a sustained staggered squat you will ruin yourself for the next climb.

As I laid there on the side of the road weighing my options I crushed all the water I had on me. I figured at least part of the cramping was due to dehydration. 

Other cyclists who passed me asked if I was okay and if I needed water. This concern & looking out for other cyclists is something that I soon learned is very common among the cycling community.

I explained to them that I had cramped up and was just taking a break waiting for my legs to un-cramp. They half-jokingly said that at least I looked really good lying down on the side of the road--thank you again Oh My Green for the Pedal Mafia uniform! We all laughed as they proceeded on.

As I laid there on the side of the road I thought through things. I definitely wanted to continue the journey so the only thing I could do was to see if my legs would actually un-cramp so that I could actually physically continue on. I told myself I would be patient and focus my mind on encouraging my quads to release. Shortly after making this decision one of the first responders who roam around the cycling course was driving by and saw me. He stopped to see if I was okay. Pat was his name and he was part of the RBC Gran Fondo crew. I told him what had happened and he offered me a ride home or some water. I chose the water and told him I really wanted to continue on.

As we were chatting my legs finally let go. My ability to bend my knees returned! I wasn't done yet! I told Pat I was good to go and asked for an additional bottle of water to refill my own.

Then I got back on the saddle and started climbing again.

Gratefully, my legs stayed unstuck. I got back to putting in the diligent work of grinding the mountain out. My will against the hill. Eventually, I caught up to another rider and just used him to set my pace against until I reached the next rest stop. By this time I was just trying survive the journey, all thoughts of being a hero were gone.

At the next rest stop I continued to double down on my previous mistakes--junk food & caffeinated gels. Nonetheless, I was extremely happy with my progress. I had made it over the Santa Cruz Mountains’ punishing 7,000 feet of elevation gain and road down the other side at breakneck speeds and lived to tell the story. Again, this was done with almost no training so the fact that I made it the Ocean from Palo Alto on a bike was a massive personal win already. I truly was surprised that I actually made it this far, especially after almost having to tap out with my legs locking up.

Henry had waited at this rest stop for me. It was at this halfway point that we decided it was best for him to continue on at his own pace and for me to continue on at my own. I was okay with this and definitely wanted to Henry to finish.

After a brief respite which included scarfing down delicious cookies and using the restroom I was back on the horse and headed back to Kings Mountain for another test of my body & willpower.

The next leg of the journey took me through rolling hills out near the Ocean. It was magical cycling through the fields, a tunnel of trees & other serenely beautiful open landscapes. It was a long way to the next rest stop but the number of intense hills was minimal and it was more about cruising along at a good clip. After probably the most peaceful portion of my ride I made it to the next rest stop.

I crushed more food, healthy & junk, refilled my water bottles, grabbed some more caffeinated gel packs, used the restroom and got back on the road yet again.

It was shortly after the third rest stop while I was diligently working my way up yet another hill that I hit a new level in the Quest. As I was methodically pedaling away in the never-ending circular motion of cycling I felt decades long held emotions deep in the wells of my body break open & release. It was raw unprocessed emotions that I had failed to work through and instead stored in my body. As I cycled through these long-forgotten & mysterious emotions I felt waves of energy cascading out from my lower chakras to the edges of all points of my body--head, hands & feet. Tears burst from my eyes while I was wracked by deep sighs & sobs, yet at the same time I was experiencing massive euphoria.

In order to move to each next level of life we must face & embrace the darkness…

In order to move to each next level of life we must face & embrace the darkness…

It was transcendental. One of those rare peak life experiences that remain so vividly burned into your psyche forevermore.

I couldn't tell you how long it lasted, but whatever came up I cycled through it until it was done releasing. One of the deepest emotional, psychological & spiritual cleanses I’ve been through.

Without stopping, I continued to cycle onto & up Kings Mountain. Again.

Going up the other side of Kings Mountain seemed infinitely harder than the first trek up the Mountain. This is likely because I'd already been on my bike for 5+ hours and already climbed so much hill it was hard to even mentally conceptualize adding more the journey. I'd already come so far.

Nonetheless, I told myself I would continue for as long as possible while listening to my body. At the last rest stop the RBC Gran Fondo team had offered me a ride up the infamous Kings Mountain, but wanting to truly test my limits I passed.

I pedaled & pushed my way back up the mountain. Slowly. Methodically. Soaking in the magical Redwoods. Asking them for help. Digging deep into myself. Exploring new terrain internally & externally.

A little bit more. A little further. It was slow going. I was well past any physical exertion threshold I'd approached in this lifetime. Yet, I was still curious where the limit & boundary was. I felt I was finally nearing it. Nearing the place in which I would need to take on help, stop or injure myself.

I probably spent close to two hours trying to tackle the backside of Kings Mountain before I finally gave in. When I reached that point I could tell my knees were at risk of being seriously injured if I kept pushing. I had already been on my bike & pedaling for over 7 hours.

Instead of pushing myself to literal breakdown I decided it was time to take the help offered. I would indeed take a ride up the rest of the Kings Mountain to the last & final rest stop and then cruise down the other side of the mountain back to the Four Seasons in Palo Alto. Heck, I still wanted to finish the Big Ride even if that meant doing it with some assistance.

By this point my videographer, Braden, had become a first-responder. Interestingly enough, he had just taken a course a few weeks prior to do exactly that. Pure coincidence. Or maybe just more magic. I shot him a message and let him know I needed a ride up the mountain.

When he picked me up he informed me that there was another rider somewhere up the road that he had to get to so off we went. Quickly.

Racing up winding roads in a car turned out to be the piece of straw that broke the proverbial camel's back. Before we even got to the next rider I had to ask to pull over so I could throw up.

The previous mistakes of inhaling junk food & caffeinated gels combined with pushing my body far beyond any previous physical thresholds all mixed together into a very unstable vessel. My whole self was primed to ignite. A rollercoaster-like car ride pushed me over the edge.

Out it all came. Over the next 3-hours or so. I was throwing up so much & feeling so nauseous that there was no way that I could even ride down the other side of Kings Mountain and cruise on back to the Four Seasons. Instead I had to head back to the hotel in the car with several stops along the way.

My ego died. I would not finish this Big Ride.

On a spiritual side note, one of the stops included me throwing up right next to a Coyote carcass. Coyote is known as the trickster God and he's known for tricking people into healing, growth & transformation. He definitely played me like a puppet. Despite normally abhorring the process of purging by way of vomiting there was something cleansing about this time.

It was like I was releasing all that deeply buried emotional junk that was crystalized into my body that I had just recently broken up through seemingly endless cycling. Now that it was no longer lodged like an icecap deep within my body it was time to fully get rid of the waste. It had been processed and it was time to cleanse the system.

When I got back to the Four Seasons I was so grateful for a super plush bed. Riding for 7+ hours had taken its toll and laying down on a giant cushy mattress with my fiancé was pure heaven. 

After a couple more visits to the bathroom & a couple hours of rest I was ready to eat. The hotel room service was to die for! It was also from the Quattro kitchen. So good in fact that I ordered it twice that night! After all the purging and wild amount of calories I burnt it was time for a serious refuel and the Four Seasons did me right! 

I spent the evening refueling, resting & integrating the powerful journey with my fiancé. It was by far the most epic adventure I’d had in years. And definitely one of the most life-changing. Second only to my Vision Quest I did for my birthday in 2017.

Surprisingly, the next day I felt amazing! To the point of getting on a stationary bike on the rooftop pool of the hotel, doing yoga, then later doing a CrossFit style workout with Henry and even playing 1-2 hours of Spikeball. I felt strong & incredibly alive!

And even though I didn’t finish the Gran Fondo it ended up being even better. It was the start of my life as a Cyclist. Since the Big Ride I’ve ridden all over Bay Area, Tahoe, Monterey, Pebble Beach, Joshua Tree and the territory I cover & explore on bike continues to expand.

I would say still to this day as I am writing this memoir of the experience I am still processing & integrating the lessons and undergoing the unfoldment that was catalyzed by it. Such a powerful quest! One thing is for certain, Eleanor Roosevelt was really onto something when she said:

You must do the thing you think you cannot do.

In addition to that enlightening quote that I finally really understand at a fundamental level, here are some key take-aways galvanized by my Big Ride:

How To Approach Hard Things That Will Change Your Life:

  1. Look for the hidden jewels that can be mined from the challenge (hard thing). In just about any challenge (opportunity) there are numerous prizes to be won if you take the time to look and make the conscious effort to uncover them.

  2. Ask empowering questions. Ask yourself the question "What is one thing I could do at this time in my life that would change my life for the better forever (whether I feel ready or not)?" Answering a powerful question like that will always move you forward in life.

  3. Leverage the empowering people in your life. Share the challenge (opportunity) with a trusted other who will empower you to say "Yes!" even when your mind wants to say, "No." Then keep sharing with others who respond with excitement. They may just have exactly what you need to make it all come together.

  4. Just say, "YES!" and figure out the details along the way. This means officially committing. Accept the invitation. Pay the admittance fee. Purchase the ticket. Apply for the job, sign up for the class, competition, workshop, etc.

Things That Really Move The Needle Of Your Life Forward Tend To Be Hard & Challenging:

  1. If they were easy everyone would do them all the time and we would all be humming along at a good clip all the time. It is the Quests we accept & take on, the ones filled with adversity & adventure, that challenge our entire being & remake us anew.

  2. They will often come in disguise. Something you've never done before. Something you think you could never do. Something that scares the shit out of you.

  3. They will push you outside of your comfort zone. Often times, way outside your comfort zone.

  4. They will induce fear. This is a good thing. It means it will change your life whether you are ready or not.

  5. You will likely fail the first time. Maybe the first several times. Again, if it were easy it probably wouldn’t catalyze much healing, growth & transformation.

  6. Release yourself from the outcome. Choose the adventure. Go all in. Play full out. And allow the experience (whatever it is) to transform you.

  7. Trust the unfolding of the journey AND take massive action at the same.

  8. It's not always about finishing. Often times it's much more about beginning a new chapter in one's life.

My New Chapter:

It’s taken me nearly 3 months, an entire season, to process this Epic Journey and get it down on virtual paper (this blog). However, I definitely haven’t been idle.

Not too long after the Gran Fondo I realized that my next chapter of life included more outdoor physical quests. Never had I felt so alive, so focused, so excited and so god damn happy & grateful! Both leading up to the Gran Fondo, during it, and a lasting effervescent glow has stuck with me ever since. I wanted more of this!

So, I went searching for my next Quest. And I found it—The Super Bowl of obstacle course racing. 13-15 miles with 30-35 obstacles & 4000+ elevation gain in Squaw Valley, California where they held the 1960 Winter Olympics.

I signed up, spent 2.5 months preparing & training for it. And just last weekend I completed my very first Obstacle Course Race. It was yet another life-changing event. So much so that a day after the Race I signed up for my next one at the end of the month.

There is so much gold to mine from these epic outdoor quests and I may have to write a few more blog posts about it, but for now…

I just want to send out a massive shoutout filled with love & immense gratitude to The Four Seasons Palo Alto & RBC Gran Fondo for this grand opportunity in disguise!

Ya’ll literally changed the trajectory of my entire life and acted as a major catalyst & demarkation for A WHOLE NEW ME!

I look forward to seeing you next year and actually finishing the Big Ride you got me started on. And who knows, maybe I’ll even train for it! ;)

In alchemy & service,

Justin David Carl

P.S. For the READER — What’s your next Quest?

Where it all started… The entrance to the Four Seasons Palo Alto & the start of the RBC Gran Fondo Silicon Valley 75-mile ride.

Where it all started… The entrance to the Four Seasons Palo Alto & the start of the RBC Gran Fondo Silicon Valley 75-mile ride.

Related Micro-Blogs on Instagram: 

An Interview covering the experience on Paula Pant's Afford Anything Podcast:

Birthday Planning Guide: Strategies For Having The Best Celebration Ever

I’m getting wiser with the years (I think).

I put this Birthday Planning Guide together for everyone who has ever had a sucky Birthday...

I know I’ve had my share of bad birthdays, but I’m determined to stop that dumb shit and proactively design “a life worth living for!”

And I’m taking everyone with me! 🤘🏼

In the 4 weeks leading up to the ripe age of 36 years young I had the best birthday celebration month I've ever had in my life. It was packed with adventure, fun, friends, abundant magic & memories I will never forget!

In the past I'll admit that on numerous years I struggled with my birthday. Several years I just wanted to get it over already. I didn't know what I wanted and I didn't take the time to figure it out. Secretly I just wanted someone else to plan & execute the whole thing for me. And I selfishly & immaturely wanted someone else to know exactly what I wanted and what would make me happy. That was always a recipe for disaster. Sound familiar?

I’ve witnessed plenty of people run this number on themselves for their birthday and then they end up having a real shitty birthday. And then they blame circumstances & "other people" for the reasons it didn't go the way they wanted.

Let me be clear, I am not pointing any fingers as I've done this to myself many times. This year I didn't.

Instead of being lazy and leaving it up to to chance that next year I may or may not have a good birthday celebration I am proactively capturing all of the actions, steps & strategies that led to a truly AWESOME celebration of my life. This way I can review it next year a month or two before my next birthday and make it even better!

Ya'll know by now that I'm all about continuous & never-ending improvement! I figure by putting this Birthday Planning Guide together some of my uber intelligent & wise readers will share their strategies with me, thus making future improvements even easier & more fun! Plus I get to be of service to others so they can avoid short-circuiting their own celebration like I did in the past. It's a win-win for all of us!

So, without further ado here is my...

Birthday Planning Guide: Strategies For Having The Best Birthday Celebration EVER

1. Plan your own birthday. Do not leave it up to someone else. To think that other people can read your mind and know exactly what you want for your birthday is ludicrous and yet so many of us fall prey to it. I know I have. Each year our heart's desires & our mind's wants may be in a different place than the prior year and the best person to determine what those are is ourselves. One year we may want a quiet celebration with a few friends. The next year we may want a massive and wild celebration. Listen to yourself & plan accordingly.

2. Plan something. Anything. Make the plan at least 4 weeks in advance. Seriously, even if your plan is no plan consciously choose that. There is power & freedom gained in making an actual choice. And if you are planning an event that involves other people giving them a month's notice allows them to fit you into their life easily. Adulthood includes full lives, responsibilities & conflicting calendars. Also, once you have a plan set you get to savor it all month leading up to the actual day. It's just like when you have a vacation planned for the next month. The anticipation alone is a wonderful gift. If you are reading this & your birthday is only a week or two away or even just few days away do not fret. Just make a plan today! Pick some form of celebration. Honestly, any plan will do. Indecision will kill your life. Decision will create new possibilities.

3. Give yourself some birthday goals & create a social challenge to support it. My birthday falls in Spring which is always a good time to start getting extra fit for the coming warm weather months. This year I started a step challenge at work and recruited 30+ people to keep myself accountable & motivated. I tied this to a goal of getting down to 7% body-fat. I only got to 8.8% by the time of my actual birthday, but I was in infinitely better aesthetic shape by the time my birthday rolled around compared to the 3-4 months prior. That momentum has carried forward and I'm well on my way to my vain pursuit.

4. Keep a calendar of awesome things you do for your entire birthday month. Tracking & logging experiences is an incredible way to suck the marrow out of life. I keep a calendar on my office wall and each day I did something awesome during my birthday month I would write it down. It both challenged me to keep striving for more awesome birthday month experiences and brought me huge satisfaction each time I gazed at the calendar. This is a habit I am definitely continuing even after my birthday month.

28 out of 30 days have something awesome & memorable! Now that's a birthday month to treasure for life!  Painting of  Kokopelli  by one of my favorite artists,  Susan Seddon Boulet .

28 out of 30 days have something awesome & memorable! Now that's a birthday month to treasure for life!

Painting of Kokopelli by one of my favorite artists, Susan Seddon Boulet.


5. Document your Birthday month & life on Facebook or in some sort of journal. I use Facebook as a life journal. I want to be able to look back on my life when I'm a 120 years old and see all the fun stuff I did when I was younger. Facebook makes it super easy to capture moments in words, pictures & videos. For each birthday gift I received I made a short video of me opening it and posted it on Facebook so the giver could experience my receiving. Now we both have this memory captured in HD forever! This will be paying dividends for the rest of our lives! If Facebook isn't your thing find some other medium that does work for you--journal, photo album, etc. I guarantee you will thank me for this when you are rocking in your rocking chair reflecting on the life you have lived.

6. Choose experiences, causes & people over spending money. This is a personal preference, but I've found it works exceedingly well in designing a life worth living for. Spending money to celebrate your birthday is lazy. Figuring out how to celebrate your birthday in ways that are inexpensive or free & in ways that support something greater than yourself forces you to get creative and really dig into what you want and who you want to become. I believe all of us cherish experiences and people more than any "thing." This year I did a Running Music Festival that only cost $25 after a discount code I found on the web. It was a 5K with multiple sound stages and it supported Stand Up To Cancer which was super meaningful to me as both my parents are cancer survivors. It was wild, fun, & full of black-lights & glow-paint. I got fitter through the experience, created memories I will never forget, and gave my money & energy to a cause so much greater than myself. I feel amazing just writing about it here.

Part of the Birthday Crew straight GLOWING!

Part of the Birthday Crew straight GLOWING!


7. Do the things that brought you joy growing up. As a kid I rollerbladed my face off. I also spent tons of time in nature and played lots of games. All birthday month long this year I went rollerblading, hiking, played Spikeball & Exploding Kittens, went treasure hunting, and got up to all sorts of childish adventure. My inner child was in full expression & loving life! This is amazing life advice in general. Want to be super happy with life? Do the things you did as kid.

8. Put together your own Gift Guide (and read The 5 Love Languages or at least take quiz). For years I've been frustrated with getting gifts that just didn't fit me. The gift would sit in my house cluttering my space and each time I thought about donating it, re-gifting it or just throwing it away I felt guilty so it would just sit there until I got so fed up with it that I disposed of it in one way or another. A few months ago I took The 5 Love Languages Quiz and learned that I experience the most love through "Quality Time". Super obvious after I took the quiz & reflected on my life. You may experience love better in other ways so definitely take the quiz and tailor your birthday celebration to that. Nonetheless, with that clarified self-knowledge I put together a Gift Guide that included this information. The majority of the Gift Guide is telling people to NOT BUY ME THINGS and instead come spend quality time with me, but I still outlined items that I really wanted/needed. Gift-giving of things is a part of some people's DNA and there is nothing wrong with it. I created the guide in a shareable Google Doc and my Fiance and I sent it to anyone who was considering getting me birthday gifts. For those who couldn't physically be around to give me a shared experience (i.e. a hike, blade, or game of Spikeball) there was an easy list to choose from. This makes it easier on the gifter too. How many times have you been totally unsure of what to give someone for their birthday? Wouldn't a guide make your life easier? For me this resulted in the absolutely fucking best year of birthday gifts ever!! No joke! All month long I was getting packages in the mail of gifts that were perfect for me! And now I will be updating the guide each year for my birthday & Christmas making life easier and better for all of us. I implore you to make your own personal Gift Guide. It will change your life!

9. Don’t compare yourself to others. Seriously, take The 5 Love Languages Quiz. It only takes a few minutes and it will give you deep self-knowledge you can use to enhance your life. Now back to how we experience love. Everyone experiences love differently and in different times throughout life how we want to be loved & celebrated on our birthday will likely change from year to year. What looks awesome for another might not really be what you want this particular year. If you start trolling social media and see everyone else's birthday celebrations you are going to confuse yourself. Plus, the dark side of social media is that it encourages comparing your life to the "highlights" of someone's life. They definitely aren't posting about the sucky things that happened during their celebration. To really drive this home I'll point to a wise quote by one of our Presidents. As Theodore Roosevelt said:

Comparison is the thief of joy.


You may really want a quiet family dinner for your birthday and yet you see someone's wild birthday celebration at a nightclub and suddenly your heartful celebration seems lame. Plain & blunt, just don't fall into the trap of comparison unless you want to lessen your own experience & kill your joy. Know that whatever you choose for your birthday this year is right for you at this point in your life. Tune out the blaring social media & instead listen to that quiet voice inside and follow it's advice. Now that's a recipe for fulfillment.

10. Release yourself from expectation & attachment to outcome. Not everyone you invite will be able to attend your celebration. People will cancel on your birthday celebration last minute. Plans will change. Things will come up that you or they didn't expect. If your happiness is tied to things going according to plan you will suffer. Have a general plan and then just let go. Allow life to give you an experience and be grateful for what shows up.


Other ideas:

Pick a big scary thing that you will never forget that will transform your life for the better. I did this last year. For about 15-20 years I had wanted to go on a Vision Quest, but was too scared to do it. I won't go into detail about what a Vision Quest is as I plan to write a stand alone article on it someday but just know that it is an ancient form of personal transformation that includes a week or more in the woods as well as solitude, silence & fasting for a full 96 hours. When I was approaching the age of 35 I asked myself, "What is the one thing I can do to start a whole new phase in my life?" The answer was immediate & clear. It was time for me to remember why I came here to Earth. And that is exactly what a Vision Quest is designed to do. It helps us remember.

There are plenty of other big scary things that will transform a life for the better so try picking one that fits you and make that your life celebration one year. I promise it will be worth it!

In closing, I would like to remind us all that Life Is A Gift. It truly is. So be happy to be alive no matter your current circumstances and take the time & energy to celebrate it at least once a year. Feel free to use my Birthday Celebration Guide and add your own magic to it!

In alchemy & service,

Justin David Carl

P.S. This guide secretly applies to celebrations of all types--Mother's Day, Father's Day, Christmas, Weddings, Graduations, etc. Don't fall into the trap of thinking you are responsible for only one type of celebration. We are personally responsible for EVERY CELEBRATION in our life.

P.P.S. Please feel free to message me on one of my socials or leave me a comment below with any additional ideas, tips, tricks & strategies for celebrating one's birthday!

P.P.P.S. Please share this with any family & friends who have upcoming birthdays or celebrations of any type. I'm on a mission to empower people to transform & self-actualize and celebrating our lives is a key part of that!


  1. Title photo of me acting like a manchild in my birthday suit shot by Noelle Johnson.
  2. Matching underwear & socks by Related Garments.
  3. Want to go on a Vision Quest? Message me directly or visit Tribal Edge.