My own journey

Here you'll find my own journey, from growing up a nice guy who let himself be inhibited by all the limitations of society around him, and was more present in his own mind than the world around him, to discovering the renaissance man lifestyle that I enjoy today. Unlike the other sections, which are focused to-the-point guides on specific topics, this is the story of how the most important products, experiences and insights have impacted me and helped me shape my life.

I'll leave it for you to find inspiration and decide which parts are of value to you in your own journey, but hopefully this will help show just how accessible many of these results are, even if I didn't exactly have the shortest paths laid out to me from the outset.

My early years: Establishing the background

I grew up as an only child, in an isolated place just outside a small country town - aside from kindergarten, I was lucky if I could have a friend over every 14 days. Most of my time was spent watching videos or playing computer. If you were to imagine my development at that age plotted on a graph, you'd see my intellectual abilities skyrocketing while my physical and particularly social skills were developing at a rate way below the norm. As a know-it-all with minimal social skills, I'm sure you can imagine how fun I was to be around when I hit grade school. =)

When I was 8, my parents divorced and my mother moved to a place where I was able to be around other children more regularly and my social skills finally started developing at a better pace. I still felt challenged physically and, particularly, socially but there was progress and insights along the way. Some of the parts that would turn out most important for my development:

Starting high school and meeting new people, I was shocked to find how narrow my comfort zone really was - I recall one day when a couple of girls in my class were casually saying goodbye to some of us with hugs, and I awkwardly froze up because it suddenly occurred to me that I hadn't even been hugging girls before. They just found it fun, that this suddenly turned out to be a bigger deal for me than I had expected, and this was when I first realized that I hadn't been making physical contact a natural part of my communication - though I had no clue about how to change that at the time.

Another landmark event for me, was during a summer camp when a bunch of the other youngsters suddenly decided to go skinny dipping. This was outside my comfort zone to put it mildly, but I decided that I was growing up and wanted to allow myself to experience such a thing. In the end, as intimidating as it seemed for a young boy who wasn't at ease with his own naked body and had never had girls see it, it was just a plain fun and playful experience, and afterwards I felt great for having allowed myself to experience it. This encouraged me to find other opportunities to push my own boundaries with people I trusted, and I quickly learned that it wasn't just a fluke but that I was always having a great experience when I found good opportunities to challenge my own comfort zone. In retrospect, this lesson has been of immeasurable value for all of my later growth.

Alongside high school, my online community was growing: We moved on to World of Warcraft where a part of our casual community was soon left searching for new challenges - and to face them, we'd have to regularly bring 40 people at the same time. In order to prevent our community from splitting apart, we sought out 3 other mature communities with the same challenge, proposed an alliance and eventually wound up writing a ruleset for what kind of behavior would be expected and how to divide the spoils of war.

As all of those practicalities were in order though, we discovered that nearly everyone felt intimidated at the thought of leading these massive 40-person groups. I wound up with the responsibility for leadership in any situation that was deemed even remotely challenging - not because of any initial talent on my part, but just because I saw it as a fun opportunity and could accept making mistakes and learning from them along the way.

This pattern would turn out to repeat: Our community quickly grew large, successful and independent from the alliance, but we eventually faced attrition over the Christmas holidays when we had only 3 weeks left for the toughest challenges that the game had ever offered. We formed a temporary alliance with a rival guild that was older and had always stayed one step ahead of us, but was now stuck in the same situation. I looked forward to working with and learning from all their skilled officers, when it turned out that everyone (on both sides of the alliance) was hesitant to accept the responsibility and it again fell to me - this time to a shocking extent: We had a massive resource of combined power that was achieving great results in record time and with far more ease than even I had dared to anticipate. Yet when I was first unable to attend, I found myself getting a call at a family dinner, asking when I expected to be back, because 40 people had spent 2 hours aimlessly with no one seizing the opportunity to step up and take responsibility - though it was obvious to everyone what had to be done and even those without leader experience could have improved the status quo, been appreciated for doing so and gained valuable experience in the process.

I was already a leader in a very desirable community, that was even more renowned socially than achievement-wise, and having to choose among hundreds of excellent applications for who had the most potential and should be given the opportunity to mature as both players and people by joining our roster. I likewise also took a lot of responsibility for mediating and smoothing out any conflicts that would arise (and in the process learning that about 80% of all the personal conflicts tended to be founded in plain misunderstandings), so I had already started to feel that my time was somehow particularly precious, since I could use it to benefit so many others - and that I might be obliged to do so. When our temporary alliance conquered this overwhelming challenge, placing our community in the very top tier (top 0.5% or so) of a game that was played by millions, and everyone seemed to think I was an indispensible piece in achieving that, my ego was kicked over the edge and I lost my grounding for a while. Luckily, I had my friends and community about me, many of which were far older and more experienced in real life, and they were able to help me find my balance again, focus on just doing what I enjoyed and leaving it for others to pass judgment, rather than craving recognition. I was also able to again let myself relax when I had spare moments, rather than always feeling I ought to come up with something brilliant. The kicker of course is, that inspiration and insights only became easier to achieve in my daily life, when I allowed myself to just let go and be utterly free to enjoy those quiet moments or gaps in my schedule.

Going back to my analog life, my father died during my last year of high school. This was not as much of a shock to me as it might have been to most 18-year olds: He had been suffering from chronic migraine and on/off depressions for all of my life, and while he somehow always found the strength to be there for me in all regards, the rest of his life had turned into an empty shell, as though I was the only thing he was still living for. In the end, it wasn't the illness but the medicine that killed him: It had always been experimental, and during the last 2-3 years of his life he was suffering from sudden blackouts and periods without short-term memory. When staying with him, it was always with the knowledge that I risked waking up to find him dead from an unfortunate fall and, while there was still hope of recovery, I could accept his passing - and had to accept that it was in part a relief to have that pressure and responsibility lifted from my shoulders.

This was the start of a rather intense week during which my father would pass away, my mother would lose her job, and I would be told that I was really a donor child and he had never been my biological father. Faced with such circumstances, I felt that society had imprinted on me that the appropriate reaction would be to break down and go cry in a corner somewhere - yet instead I found that my passion for life had never been greater: I mourned my father, but I also quickly realized that I was free from certain burdens and that not transferring between parents freed up a lot of time in my life. My mother had lost her job, but considering what I'd been achieving and that I probably got at least part of that from her, I never really imagined that this would be a challenge for her. The matter of my genes didn't change the fact that he was my true father, but instead freed me completely from the threat of any hereditary diseases from that side. All in all, things had already been knocked over and by now it mostly looked like an opportunity to pause and re-assess my life: I realized that I was actually already doing things I loved, and passionately so. I didn't even regret the rather specialized focus, as I felt it had given me wonderful lessons - but it also occurred to me that I had learned what it meant to master niches and the time might have come to spread out and grow into a more diverse and complete person.

I finished high school with good grades for the fun of it and was looking forward to college. At this point, I had long since known that I wanted to be a game designer, and that this business didn't so much care what you'd formally learned, as what you'd produced. I wanted to learn how to program, in order to implement my own projects and, faced with the choice between 6 months of intensive study in a basement somewhere or a couple of years at college, I saw the latter as a great social opportunity. The year before, I had consulted industry professionals and decided that computer science at the University of Copenhagen would be the best choice for me.

Online, I had already spent quite a while feeling that WoW had few new challenges to offer me, so I had slowly started delegating my daily responsibilities and finding capable successors over about 6 months, and when college started I was ready to begin a new chapter and launch at it with my full attention.

Next up: First Year: New beginnings

Pick your own journeys!

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  4. My own journey: The full chronological journey and how these teachers have helped me in shaping my own life.

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