Short speech. You lost your partner today. The DEA took all your money, your lab. You got nothing. Square one. But you know the business and I know the chemistry. I’m thinking maybe you and I could partner up. – Walt, Breaking Bad


That’s what happens if you don’t take risks.  Also if you do take risks.

If someone were to ask me, “How do you ruin your life?” I would have to think a long time about that – most all of my life has been pretty awesome.  I’ve still got all of my hair, I can fit into my high school jeans, and I have never had a moment of sorrow.

Okay, that’s a lie – what do I look like, a Trump kid?

I’ve had my share of issues, and, from a follicular standpoint, well, NASA requires me to wear a hat so the reflecting sunlight doesn’t blind the astronauts in the International Space Station and cause them to steer it into Britney Spears.  My high school clothes are far behind me.  And sorrow?  Sure, I’ve had a few moments.

Perhaps the biggest lesson that I’ve learned is a variation on Nietzsche, “That which does not kill me, makes me stronger.”  And it’s true.  I’ve actually found that at the core of each of the worst moments in my life was embedded the seeds of the best moments.  It took me a few times to realize, that the rough moments were the poo which fertilized the awesome moments to come.

Perhaps on a deeper note – as I’ve said before – this moment in time, I’m fine.  The past is gone, so there’s no use to complain about things that you can’t change.  The future isn’t yet here, so getting upset about it is silly.  Right now in time, I’m working on this blog, watching silly TV with the family, having a nice glass of wine, and, regardless of what happened five years ago, five days ago, or five minutes ago, life is good.  And the future?  Yeah, I’ll die.  But I own how I feel until that happens.

So, when you look at the quality of life you have, you get to choose.  And you can choose to be happy, or not.  And you ca also choose to ruin your life if you want to.  J.P. Sears is the brains behind Ultra-Spiritual Life, a series of YouTube videos that parody movements, situations, and are generally a pretty fun series to watch.

In the YouTube box below, J.P. talks about “Ways to Ruin Your Life.”  It looks like it predates his current series, but it’s still pretty funny (and pretty short).  I’ll give you my take on how I rank against his criteria.

  1. Never Take Risks

This is one where I’d rate myself a 7 or so.  I’ve made multiple major life decisions that had some form of risk attached to them.  I’ve not jumped out of a moving plane, but I have moved my family halfway across the North American Continent and then back again.  Those risks turned out to be some of the best choices that ever happened to us.  Looking back (so far) I can’t seem to find any particular risk that I didn’t take that fills me with regret, and at each turn, it looks like I took an okay path.  Private jet?  No.  WilderNetWorth©?  Yeah.

So, why 7 out of 10?  It’s 7 out of 10 because I’ve seen people like Jeff Bezos take even bigger risks and create even greater value than I have over time.  Part of this might be just survivor bias.  You see the survivor, the guy who took the big risks and made out like a bandit, but you don’t see the guy who’s working in McDonalds™ because his dotcom company almost made it.  I see Mr. Bezos’ success and don’t see all the exploded failures along the way, like the guy who invented TinderTwit, or UberOogle.

Also, really successful people tend to take risks, but the risk ratios are very skewed – they get a great deal of return with the probability of a small loss.

  1. Seek the Approval of Others

I have sought the approval of, oh, my supervisors in the company that pays my salary, because I have found that not doing so has pretty negative implications.  But I don’t fawn on them, and when it comes to a point of principle or fact, I am fairly dogged and determined.

Personally, I have found that not caring about the approval of your supervisor is career limiting.

One time I had the fortune to be in a training class being (partially) taught by the CEO of our company.  He’s worth billions, and I had a chance to talk to him one on one.  I was thrilled!


I had a problem I was working with – some folks in his company wanted to spend money that wouldn’t be a good idea – it would lose money for the company.  I told him it was politically difficult to fight these folks.  He told me, “John Wilder, it’s not kindergarten.  You have to fight to create value in the company.”  Armed with his advice, I saved him about four million dollars, but angered half of the people that were in favor of the project, who were all corporate VPs.  Oh, and I wasn’t.

Seeking their approval *might* have been a better idea.

  1. Talk, but Take No Action

Okay, I might be a 3/10 here.  I’ve had so many plans for doing things that I hadn’t followed up on.  Most of those, however, were because I couldn’t get the people together, the money together, or on the cold light of day it turned out to be a stupid idea.

My initial assessment of the iPhone was that it was silly to try to combine all of those features in one place, kind of like adding a clock radio to a toaster to an electronic toothbrush.  My bad, but it also shows that sometimes my initial vision might be off a bit.

This may tie back to risk, but, honestly, 99% of all ideas are bad, even my ideas (some of my ideas are awesome), but really, did the world need The Clapper©?

In general, I’ve gotten more failure from being bold, but those failures have been small, or my ego absorbed them.  True story:

9th Grade John Wilder, Calling Girl to Ask For Date:   Would you like to go to a movie with me?

Not the Future The Mrs.:  No, I can’t.  I’m busy that night.

I had not specified when I would take her to the movie.

  1. Value Things, Use People

I don’t think I’m probably okay here, 6/10 or 7/10.  In the end, one of my basic philosophical points is that people are important, probably even more important if you’re their supervisor – that’s a real responsibility.

Now, I never said I was nice.  But being nice isn’t always how you help people.  Let me explain:

I was in college, and was listening to a speech.  In a twist of sadism, teachers about then decided that the way to grade a speech was peer review.  I attempted to listen to the speech but it was difficult – the presentation was really bad.  When it was my turn, I said to her:

“During our speech, you said ‘um’ 14.3 times per minute, with an approximate total of 753 ‘um’s’ during your speech.  It was distracting.”

If you have never seen a look of hate, imagine Hillary Clinton after they told her that Monica Lewinski just defeated her in the presidential election.

It was pretty bad.

Next speech?  Flawless.  I said so in my evaluation.  Best speech of the day.

She didn’t smile.  To this day, I think if she could poison me and not get caught? She’d do it.

  1. Conceal Emotions

I’m probably a bit worse here, say 3/10 – I’m a bit of a poker face when it comes to most things.  I don’t do that so much with The Mrs., but that’s because she’s The Mrs.

At one job where the company was in trouble, I was told I was too cheerful.  I was told I should be sadder.

I share the emotions I wish to share – those are mine.

  1. Be Normal

I’m excellent at being abnormal.  That’s why you’re reading this.  8/10.

  1. Keep Secrets

2/10. If you tell me a secret, I’m pretty awesome at keeping it.  My own?  I’m okay with that, too.

  1. Never Work Hard

9/10.  Throughout my career I’ve worked very hard indeed, with some years putting in well over 3,000 hours for the company.  I’ve even tried to work smart while I work hard.  The major issue that I have is (sometimes) I make it look easy because of the poker face.

If you have a great boss, and you’re in a great situation, life is good.  You can do it!

If you have a meh boss (that will sink you for a dollar) and the job is rough, you might want to think about point nine (below).

  1. Ignore Intuition

I’ve followed my intuition fairly well – and it has been, for the most part, spot on.  I’d give me an 8/10.  Down side of following your intuition is that if it didn’t bathe, it can be all stinky being behind it.

  1. Avoid Personal Responsibility

If this were my list, it would be number one and at the top.  I have found that I am greatly compatible with most personality types.  There are two types that I cannot mesh well with:  Clowns (specifically the ones that dress like hoboes) and people who don’t take responsibility for their lives.  I call them:  victims.

Don’t get me started on victims.  Everything is always the fault of someone else, and if you listen long enough, it’s like they don’t even take any part in their day to day lives.

Here’s J.P. talking about the points above.  He’s awesome.


So, in the end, it’s your life, and you get to choose how you live your life and how you choose to view it.  But don’t ask me how your speech is if you don’t want to know the truth.


Author: John

Nobel-Prize Winning, MacArthur Genius Grant Near Recipient writing to you regularly about Fitness, Wealth, and Wisdom - How to be happy and how to be healthy. Oh, and rich.