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!

Always more empowering stuff on my Instagram:

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:

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: