To make amends, this article is especially personal and finally reveals how my Deliberate Diligence Lifestyle Blueprint works in detail. ⛰️
Before you dive into this article, I want to inform you that it's a comprehensive piece that may take around 30-35 minutes to read.
However, it's packed with valuable insights I've acquired through 15+ years of self-improvement, so it's more like a small booklet than a simple blog post.
I strongly recommend reading it thoroughly, as the knowledge it contains is worth the effort.
Would you rather read the article on your Kindle? Download it here as epub file.
I could have ended in a vicious cycle.
When I finished university with a Computer Science degree in my mid-20s and entered the workforce, I fell into a deep hole:
- I suddenly had no externally driven goals or milestones, which resulted in me being driven like a butterfly in the wind, without the skills to give myself direction.
- I felt very lonely because all my friends had moved away, and I lacked the social skills to meet new people. Those skills weren't needed in school and university because finding friends was easy.
- I slowly realized that my body was no longer forgiving my lousy lifestyle habits of overeating fast food, not getting enough exercise, and neglecting sports. I was severely overweight and felt unattractive when I looked in the mirror, and I also developed back problems.
- With the first deaths in my family, I slowly became aware that life is impermanent. This recognition led to a desire to use my time effectively, particularly in my high-energy 20s and 30s, so I wouldn't regret missing out on something one day.
- I learned a lot from my parents, school, and university, but unfortunately, not what a successful, holistic lifestyle looked like or how to create one.
- I had a completely wrong understanding of my finances, which led me to spend all my income on consumption and even go into debt instead of building up capital.
- I was disappointed with my starting salary. It wasn't what the internet and media promised for a computer science graduate with a 1st class degree. I tried to increase my salary through extreme diligence in my job, which only worsened my lifestyle. I became a soulless workaholic.
- I felt generally underdeveloped and dissatisfied, and it showed. People could see and feel my unfulfillment. I radiated it. Consequently, I found it challenging to find a girlfriend.
- I experienced depressive moods, especially after drinking too much alcohol, and eventually even had panic attacks and tremors, which only worsened things.
- I was fighting my shadow self and trying to hide my inner, authentic persona behind masks and filters because I was afraid to show it to the world and because I wanted to fit in with my surroundings.
It sounds like a significant problem - and it certainly felt that way - and I could have quickly spiralled downward, as happens to many people.
I managed to turn my life around at the last minute
But fortunately, I am a resilient type. Within 10 years (+ 5 years to perfect it), I managed to turn my life around 180 degrees and develop an incredibly fulfilling and successful lifestyle based on a pyramid of healthy habits:
- I achieved a rocket-like career advancement in my corporate job and reached my desired salary and a fulfilling position as Head of Innovation.
- I am now athletic and more than satisfied with my appearance and figure. Daily exercise, healthy eating, and walking keep my body attractive and functional. The workout doesn't feel like chores, and I look forward to them. I like what I see when I look in the mirror.
- I found a great wife and have built a few meaningful interpersonal relationships.
- I now show the world my authentic self, making me a charismatic person others want to be around.
- I paid off my debts, built capital, and invested just in time. If I keep working on it consistently, I will be able to enjoy a good retirement and be able to master unexpected expenses.
- I found a good work-life balance by realizing that it makes no sense to work 60+ hours. I now invest my excess energy into my passion projects, such as this blog.
- I generally have myself under control and am a much more mentally balanced and contented person. I feel like I am on a growth path, removing my fear of wasting my time. Not a single minute of mine feels wasted.
- My physical and mental complaints have all disappeared. My body is 100% capable, and I rarely get sick. I have also completely given up my addictions to smoking and drinking.
There was no magic involved! It's no hero story with incredible luck, either. It's just that I established simple practices and made minor changes in my mindset and lifestyle, which led to these drastic positive changes over time. In my actions, I focus on consistency instead of intensity, and when I veer off my healthy habit path, I bring myself gently back to it.
And the best part? It's replicable. I can explain to you how it's done!
And that's precisely why I founded Deliberate-Diligence.com. I want to help anyone who, like me, falls into a hole in their 20s avoid going into a negative downward spiral and transform into a fulfilled, happy, balanced, and successful person.
What fascinates me is it is so simple. A few core practices and habits distinguish between being a miserable and a happy person. You can write a compact book (or a blog), and all the essentials will be there.
It's just the consistent execution that's hard to achieve. You must:
- Know the concepts,
- Find the energy and motivation to implement them, and
- find role models and peers that motivate you to become active.
If you're in the same situation as I was, I can help you with (1) and (3).
If you're still reading this article, I guess the need for action will be similarly pressing for you.
Although I faced significant challenges, I was able to transform my life by establishing healthy habits, changing my mindset, and making small but consistent changes over time.
I believe anyone can do the same, and I am committed to helping others achieve their own transformation.
If you see yourself as the person I used to be, I want you to know I can help you achieve your goals.
I understand you may think:
"It took over a decade for this person to achieve their goals. How am I supposed to do it?"
The truth is, I started from scratch and taught myself everything. I was the type of person who wanted to handle everything on my own, which is why it took me so long. However, this also makes me the perfect role model to learn from because I have internalized and tested the principles necessary for living a fulfilling life.
I did not just read about these principles in books or parrot them from other self-optimization gurus. I have lived and breathed these principles in my own life for over 15 years. I have read over 100 self-help books and experimented with various approaches during this time. Through self-reflection, I could incorporate my learnings and the best practices from the market into a system that I call the Deliberate Diligence Lifestyle Blueprint.
So, if you want to achieve your goals and live a fulfilling life, I am here to help you. With my guidance and the Deliberate Diligence Lifestyle Blueprint, you can achieve your dreams faster than I did. I urge you to take the first step today and let me help you improve your life.
Transform Your Life in 12 Months with My 10-Level Pyramid System.
I won't promise you'll reach your ultimate goal within 12 months, as that may not be possible, and I don't want to give you false expectations.
However, I can assure you that after 12 months, you and your environment will notice a significant change in you. You will have transformed into a different person who feels substantial fulfilment from being on a healthy growth path. And this sense of satisfaction will radiate from you, attracting others towards you.
From my experience, I can tell you that 80% of the change will come rapidly if you focus on the 20% most important habits and practices. However, the time it takes to establish the pyramid from bottom to top sustainably is often underestimated. There will be setbacks, yo-yo effects, and fate will put obstacles in your way. Your long-term success and achieving your real goals will only occur if you can maintain your new healthy habits for years and not fall back into old patterns.
"I want to get started! What do I have to do?"
I cannot offer you a book on the Deliberate Diligence Lifestyle Blueprint or even a video masterclass in which everything is presented end-to-end coherently, as I still have to create this content over the next few months. As Head of Innovation for a large IT company, I can only work on it for a few hours in the morning and at the weekend.
But! I can give you a first overview today and a few links to my 80+ blog articles so you can get a rough idea. It's just not compact and sorted yet.
The Deliberate Diligence Lifestyle Blueprint.
Let me give you an overview of the Deliberate Diligence Lifestyle Blueprint System I developed. The system is built conceptually as a pyramid, as shown in the image above. This pyramid structure is designed to help you approach your transformation step-by-step so you don't feel overwhelmed.
If you're like me, you probably have multiple areas of your life that you need to work on. In my case, I identified 10 different areas, each corresponding to a level in the pyramid.
This ability is like having a superpower in today's society, where 99% of people allow themselves to be carried along by circumstances and the comfort of staying stagnant.
The pyramid structure is beneficial because some levels build on others.
- For example, even if you exercise seven times a week, you won't see optimal results if you don't have your nutrition under control.
- Level 1 is also fundamental: Reflect & Achieve. What good is climbing a ladder if it is on the wrong wall? Your primary direction and your goals must be clear beforehand.
The pyramid structure allows you to make progress logically and efficiently. As you move up each level, you'll build on the skills and habits you developed in the previous level, so you can continue to improve and grow.
Level 1: Reflect & Achieve
If you follow my content on social media, you'll know that I often emphasize the importance of taking action instead of spending too much time overthinking or reading books. This is because the exact path to success is often unclear, and it's often advantageous to take a few steps in the wrong direction to learn and recognize the right direction.
However, one exception exists: before embarking on a 12-month transformation journey, thinking carefully about what you want to achieve is essential. This may require taking a weekend or even a holiday week to reflect on and research your goals. You can find some initial guidance on this process in the blog articles above.
There are two main reasons why setting goals and determining direction is essential:
- To begin, it's essential to understand your motivation for dissatisfaction and transform it into a tangible, visualizable goal. This goal will be a source of inspiration for the challenging journey ahead. My initial motivation was to improve my appearance as an athlete to attract an equally attractive partner. Whenever I lacked willpower, I envisioned two scenarios: meeting my dream partner in my former chubby state versus meeting them in my fit, athletic shape (with the help of male role models). Considering the likelihood of success in each scenario, it became clear what was at stake and what I needed to achieve. It may seem superficial, but it's essential to be honest, and acknowledge your true motives. Setting an abstract goal, such as becoming slightly healthier or improving cholesterol levels by 10%, will not provide the necessary drive to exercise daily.
- Secondly, you don't want to spend years climbing a ladder on the wrong wall. By carefully considering your goals and values, you can ensure that you're working towards a purpose that will bring you fulfilment and satisfaction. For example, you may spend 10 years working on your career only to find that entrepreneurship makes you happy.
If you're anything like me, it can be challenging to sum up, your end goal and purpose in a brief statement, no matter how much reflection you put into it.
However, it's crucial to start by identifying a few guiding principles. For instance, I've always been driven by the fear of death and the desire to use my time effectively, deeply rooted in my subconscious. Instead of fighting against these values, I need to build on them as strengths. This means I won't find fulfilment in living in the moment or being content with my current situation like a monk might. Instead, I derive satisfaction from making an impact, growing in influence, and continuously developing. While this isn't a definite purpose, it provides a framework for where my purpose will likely lie.
Level 2: Fuel Your Body & Mind
I have wasted so much time - you can't imagine. I'm still quite active, but for a while, I was doing
- an hour of strength training,
- an hour of cardio (running or cycling), and
- taking 15-20,000 steps every day.
I was burning 4,500-5,500 calories, easily double or triple what others burn daily. Despite this massive time investment, I wasn't losing fat or gaining muscle as I'd hoped.
Why? Because I was also eating 5,000-6,000 calories. My body didn't have enough of a deficit to burn fat or a surplus to build muscle. In essence, it's *impossible to achieve both goals simultaneously, so that was a mistake. (*Note: I read a study that said that absolute beginners could work on both goals simultaneously for a while with some sound effects.)
In any case, this led me to invest a lot of time in something that was only marginally effective. There were benefits I didn't want to ignore - during this time, my VO2Max, or lung function, became extremely good, and I achieved top results in competitions. But that wasn't my goal!
The lesson? I built my pyramid incorrectly. I should have first learned what constitutes good nutrition and trained that instead of starting with exercise.
If I were to do it more intelligent today, before running the first kilometre, I would spend a few weeks:
- Learning to cook with non-processed foods
- Avoiding unbalanced diets - I don't think reducing carbs, or fat is as essential if you're eating whole foods.
- Trying fasting - using intermittent fasting as a constant companion and 24-hour fasting as a countermeasure if I slip up.
- Sharpening my sense of taste and hunger by consciously eating and buying food (no watching YouTube while eating!)
- Reducing sugar to less than 50g per day. Sugar led to cravings and binge eating for me.
- Establishing standard meals (e.g. I eat quark (curd cheese) with oatmeal and berries every day)
- Uninstalling food delivery apps
Check out the category link to get some first deep-dive articles!
Level 3: Master Your Mornings
Level 3 is the key to my Deliberate Diligence Lifestyle System. It would be best to have high-quality time and be top of the game to transform yourself. Not tired, but full of mental energy and willpower.
Many people try to accomplish their personal goals after their 9-5 job and fail miserably. Why? Because they don't have any willpower left! They waste time until 10 or even midnight on entertainment and things that don't require will.
I used to be like that too. I would stay up late, drink beer and watch Netflix. At the same time, I would often say to myself, "I just don't have time to do XYZ." What? Wasting 4 hours and still not having time?
My breakthrough came from external circumstances. My then-girlfriend, now wife, is a paediatrician and had to get up at 5 am to go to her shift. So, she would go to bed at 9 pm.
At first, I used the time to do whatever I wanted in the evenings, but eventually, I started going to bed at 9 pm and waking up at 5 am, too, feeling refreshed. Suddenly, I had 4 hours before work. I didn't know what to do with all that time. At first, I just read in the mornings, but eventually, I realized I could use that time strategically. I could now accomplish personal goals worth 4(!) hours before my corporate job. Exercise, writing, learning - my day already felt fulfilled by 9 am.
It's like the day suddenly has 28 hours instead of 24. And what did I lose? Honestly, nothing! Who cares if I watched a Netflix series or read a zombie novel?
Now you might say, "But don't you need time to relax and unwind?" No, not really. The time I can start my day according to my own agenda doesn't feel like work but rather my new leisure time! It's much higher quality and more purposeful than my low-quality leisure time. Unwinding time is reduced to 45m reading before bedtime.
Admittedly, you can overdo it - I would sometimes become quite passive-aggressive if something forced me to stay up past 9 pm or prevented me from working on my agenda in the morning (especially during business trips).
But overall, this was the key that ultimately turned my sense of life from miserable to fulfilled because the 4 hours before work are absolutely self-determined and not determined by someone else like the rest of the day.
PS: As always comes up at this point: Yes, I know this doesn't work the same way when you become a parent. You have to adapt and adjust this principle.
Level 4: Supercharge Your Health
Once you have your nutrition and morning routine under control, meaning that you can now exercise in the morning before work, the question is, how exactly? What is effective?
I have tried dozens of systems here, and there are no one-for-ll blueprints. Regarding exercise, it's not about finding what is most effective but finding something you enjoy and where the inner struggle is not too great. You can force yourself to do certain things temporarily with discipline and willpower, but you can't keep that up in the long run.
What I think is important is that you don't focus solely on one type of exercise but try to assemble various activities. Consider whether you want to do individual sports or team sports. I don't want any dependencies in my program, so I do everything individually.
My proven approach is as follows:
- The first domino is this rule: I exercise for an hour every day, no matter what. The rest are details.
- The second domino is that exercise doesn't necessarily have to be as intense as you think. Regarding Pareto, you can achieve 80% of the outcomes from walks with 20% of the perceived effort. If you're not used to exercising, you can start by getting used to walking daily for a few weeks. Get a pedometer and go out for 30-60 minutes several times daily until you reach 25-20,000 steps. You'll find that walks are delightful and bring more than just health benefits.
- Once your walks are under control, you can reduce your step count to 10-15.000 steps and use the extra time to run for 45-55 minutes instead. The goal is not a particular pace or distance but consistency in exercising daily. If you don't like running, you can also get a rowing machine, cycle, or jump rope. Anything that gets your heart rate up to over >150 beats per minute.
- Once you have the runs under control, start alternating strength and endurance exercises. One day you do strength training; the next day, you go for a run. In the beginning, bodyweight exercises you can do at home are sufficient. If that's no longer enough, go to the gym for a while to learn about various exercises and equipment. Eventually, you'll want to train at home - then get yourself short or long barbell equipment if you have the space (you need at least 7-90 square meters of free space).
- Regarding the systematics in strength training, it worked best for me in the advanced phase to do a full-body workout at each session. Now that I'm one step further, I alternate (1) chest+shoulders, (2) upper back+arms, and (3) lower back and legs in a rotating fashion.
- Regarding the exercise selection, it's best to master the 6-7 most important basic exercises (e.g., deadlifts, pull-ups, bench presses, squats, ...) to perfection before getting bogged down with dozens of other exercises.
- Regarding exercise execution, it's only essential to know that you must consciously go to your limit and even exceed it occasionally. Both in strength and endurance training. Only then will you make real progress in your performance and strength.
I also think it is essential to understand your heart rate and its correlation to your training intensity. For example, if I want to lose fat consciously, I wouldn't necessarily go for a run (160-170 bpm) but rather a cycle (130-140 bpm). If you want to improve your lung function, runs are better.
But as I said, you only need to remember: One hour per day, whatever floats your boat. Consistency is more important than intensity and actionism. I haven't written much in this area yet, but you can find a few articles in the category link.
Level 5: Dominate Your Digital Life
Level 5 is where many productivity tips are typically addressed in the market, such as:
- What is the best note-taking program? Which is better, Roam Research or Obsidian? How do I build a second brain?
- How do I manage my time effectively? How does time-blocking work? What can I adapt from Elon Musk's productivity system?
- How can I improve my concentration? How do I prevent smartphone notifications from distracting me? How do I curate my input sources? How do I avoid being influenced?
However, I want to emphasize that these questions and practices aren't as important as you think. To illustrate this: I spent 300-400 hours designing and refining my Notion system with dashboards and databases in 2021, but I have never looked back at the notes I took. It was just a high-quality form of procrastination that distracted me from my goals.
The key takeaway is not to waste your time on tools but to focus on the basics:
- Have an inbox to store thoughts, tasks, and ideas throughout the day. I use Evernote for this purpose, and it simply takes digital notes and sorts them into folders using tags and the search function. We need no knowledge graph, taxonomy, or database schema for regular folks. Such features are only necessary to build a research system (for journalists, authors, scientists, etc.). The goal is not to make a second brain but to get all of these distracting thoughts, ideas, and tasks in your notes so you can focus entirely on the activity at hand. For this to work, however, having a routine (morning or evening) of reviewing your inbox notes once and sorting them into an appropriate folder is also essential. Your mind needs to be sure that you will return to the thought so you can forget it for the moment.
- Write down your tasks and review them regularly, regardless of how you do them. You can even write them on a napkin. The important thing is to categorize them into "essential" and "non-essential" tasks and determine your "most important task" at any given time. You'll realize that out of 100 tasks, only 5 are truly important, and you'll only complete about 20 non-essential ones. The rest will become irrelevant and unfinished.
- Learn to cope with unfinished tasks mentally. Forget about achieving a "zero tasks" state; it will only stress you out. Instead, measure your success by whether you can recognize the 5 critical tasks among the hundreds and complete them without being distracted by other things.
- Turn off all notifications and stop immediately responding to emails and notifications. You don't always have to have Outlook, Slack and Teams open! I only respond to 90% of my emails once a week, and it has never caused any harm. It saves my mental energy for essential tasks during the week.
- Adapt the "Eat the Frog" strategy to your situation. I have a "Eat the Frog" time block every day between 9 and 11:30 am after exercising, during which I defend against meetings and distractions and complete my most important task (MIT) of the day. You can identify your MIT by the task that scares you the most (e.g., fear of failure). I reward myself with a lunchtime walk afterwards. The goal is consistency in the time block execution, not the specific outcome. The trick is that by doing it every day, your mind will get used to it, and you'll quickly get into the flow in the morning and work on your tasks with maximum concentration.
These tips alone will help you avoid procrastination, overwhelm, and distraction. Check out the articles in the corresponding blog category to learn more!
Level 6: Rise to the Top
After mastering Level 5, your body and mind are fully ready and sustainable to perform at their best. You are now absolutely capable of making an impact, but what is your goal? Is it primarily about your career, power, meaningful relationships, altruism, family, or entrepreneurship? The choice is yours!
I have chosen to make my primary income and a good portion of my social network through my work in a corporation and pursue my additional entrepreneurial interests through a side hustle (see Level 10). Therefore, Level 6 in the Deliberate Diligence Blueprint is "Rise to the Top," or climbing the corporate ladder. My climb looked like this in the past 10 years:
- Studied computer science at a university and briefly researched knowledge graphs.
- I became a software developer at an IT service provider for 1-2 years before switching to software architecture, requirements management, and project management due to my conceptual skills.
- Then, I got promoted to work on digital consulting and project management for several years, leading digitization projects.
- Climbed to cloud and innovation strategy consulting.
- Eventually, my former consulting role became a responsibility, and I became the Head of Innovation, now primarily working as a management and intrapreneur.
I don't want to assume that I know the best career path for everyone, as it could also make sense to deepen one's technical role (e.g. software architect -> cloud, data, & AI evangelist). However, it has always led me "upward" toward the path of responsibility. I don't want to develop concepts and tell great stories; I want to feel like I'm guiding the company through the digitalization maze. That's something I can do in my role now.
Suppose you also want to pursue such a career path. In that case, there are some core principles I would like to share at this point:
- Say "yes" to everything at the beginning of your career, take on every challenge, and if you lack experience, bring energy to the team instead.
- The further you progress and the more responsibility you take on for specific areas, the more you must be able to say "no" strictly. Eventually, so many requests and opportunities will come your way that you would dilute your effectiveness if you took on everything. The skill that will make you an A-player is maintaining your focus and not getting distracted. The hard part is that you don't only have to say no to unessential jobs but also to great ones.
- Understand organizational procrastination. Organizations are partly very inefficient administrative monsters. Your colleagues and structures will tempt you to make things unnecessarily complicated. The result? You end up hanging out in meetings to defend bullshit bingo slides instead of effectively creating value. You'll reflect on your week and realize that you did a lot and were always stressed but didn't achieve anything significant. All for nothing! You must understand this and make it a rule always to choose the shortest paths to achieve your goals. It will make you unpopular in parts but incredibly effective. Business owners will love you for it and support you accordingly.
- Act like a principal-agent. 99% of your colleagues only do what they're told or what's in their contract or job description. You can easily stand out by taking responsibility for things you don't necessarily have to. When the other 99% say, "someone should do this..." you step forward and do what needs to be done.
- 99% of your colleagues check off tasks and call it "work". You're different. For you, success is only what creates value for your company and its customers at the end of the day. This also allows you to solve problems creatively. While others are still organizing design thinking workshops, crafting concept slides, and holding agile sprint meetings, you have solved the issue directly and immediately.
Lastly, making a successful career does not mean working long hours. I have found that my output is most extraordinary when I work 40 hours a week. Perhaps 30 hours would be even better. If I exceed this, the quality of my work diminishes, and tasks become endless.
I have a role model in this regard. The most effective manager I have ever seen seemed to work only 4 hours a day and still had the output of three full-time employees. This is simply because he followed the principles mentioned above!
Level 7: Cultivate Meaningful Connections
The order of priorities is a subject of debate. While the current zeitgeist suggests that relationships and family should come before work, I prioritize my corporate career as the central pillar on which other aspects of my life (levels 7 to 10) are built.
Level 7 is all about social and personal relationships. Here, you'll learn much about social and emotional dynamics, determining how well you understand the world and various contexts. The more you know, the more effective you'll be at using them as leverage rather than seeing them as insurmountable barriers.
Check out the articles linked in the category above to better understand what I mean. Meanwhile, here are a few key takeaways:
- Confront your shadow self. This involves accepting your true personality, which many people hide behind various social masks for fear of rejection. The result? 99% of people are inauthentic, broken, and constantly self-sabotaging. By embracing my shadow self and displaying the darker sides of my ego, I feel much more at peace with myself. Interestingly, people appreciate my authenticity rather than avoiding me. Being in harmony with your shadow self is the key to becoming charismatic and fulfilled.
- Avoid the beauty trap. Marketing, media and society (and probably genetics, to some extent) raised us to prefer beautiful people. It happens automatically. When we see a lovely person, we automatically think they are knowledgeable, successful, and has all sorts of fantastic qualities. I've learned that the most beautiful people are often the most broken. My theory is that society's unique and preferential treatment leads to some unfavourable character traits. If you are above average in beauty, many everyday things are easier. The people in the supermarket are nicer to you. The consultant goes the extra mile. The manager of your new job hires you immediately. Your friends flatter you. The result? You don't develop resilience because you don't have to remove problems from your way and never really have to work hard. This has consequences for the character. Men and women are often particularly one-dimensional in their choice of partner and often optimize their partner selection primarily based on appearance. It's okay, of course; I've done it too. It just leads to the unintended consequence that, if you're unlucky, you're automatically looking for people with character weaknesses who never have to overcome significant life obstacles. Of course, this cannot be generalized, as there are also beautiful people who have developed great characters. But I would also be lying if I said that, in my experience, there was no pattern. This may not be a new insight for you; this phenomenon is also found in film and television.
- Friendships are overrated. Many people invest a great deal of time and energy into maintaining extensive networks of friends. However, I've observed that this behaviour can be a form of procrastination that prevents people from addressing their problems and opportunities. Don't get me wrong - I value relationships, but they are much more meaningful when centring around shared goals, projects, and missions rather than solely socializing. It's up to you to decide how much emphasis you want to place on friendships. Remember that having many friends is not mandatory, and society's narrative often causes unnecessary loneliness and dissatisfaction. Free yourself from this narrative and decide how many friendships you want and for what purpose. Many believe their friendships to be some social safety net that would catch her in case of trouble. Fair enough. But honestly? Ultimately, we all die alone; when we have real problems, 99% of "friends" disappear and don't show up.
I feel like I have the most controversial views here in Level 7. But hey, choose the messages that resonate with you. It doesn't have to be that everyone has the same opinion.
Level 8: Secure Your Financial Future
Level 8 is a bit easier now. The key is to make a few mindset shifts that, over the long term, will lead you to wealth. I don't need to sell you get-rich-quick schemes. Essentially, you need to know and implement the following:
- Measure what matters: Keep a household budget and review it weekly. Gain clarity on your income and expenses and see your net worth. Simply realizing what you're spending on specific categories - clothes, restaurants, gadgets, etc. - will help you find potential savings areas. It's also vital to balance fixed and variable costs. If you earn €2,000 a month and €1,500 goes towards fixed expenses, you have a serious structural problem. Your fixed costs should ideally not exceed 30% of your net income, so you have enough room to save. Some apps will do that analysis automatically, but I recommend doing it manually in excel since the review process will bring clarity. Adding those 12x50€ spendings on Amazon for non-essentials to the excel will physically hurt you, and thus you will be more prone to be cautious when buying stuff.
- View money as capital, not consumption potential. The difference is that consumption potential disappears when you consume and is gone forever, while capital can work for you for years and decades. If you realize that every euro earned can also be capital if you invest it in ETFs, stocks, crypto, and real estate, your subconscious will automatically motivate you to be frugal. I now find greater joy in treating myself to a fine stock rather than buying an Xbox. I encourage you to make the same mindset shift.
- Invest as early as possible. Many of my friends fear investing and don't take the first step. Nonsense! Download the app of a neo-broker and start investing a little money every month - let's say 10% of your net income - in broadly diversified ETFs and turning it into capital that works for you. Yes, you might choose the wrong ETFs, but you can start listening to financial podcasts and educating yourself financially in the next few weeks. In six months, you'll have learned all the essentials and can invest with a clear conscience. The earlier you start, the earlier you can benefit from compound interest. I would advise you not to take financial products from those banks' financial consultants. You will be very annoyed when you realise that they do nothing but invest your money in ETFs and take a lot of money and fees from you.
- How much should you save? Create an Excel sheet where each row represents a year from your age to your retirement age. Add up your savings amount year by year (e.g., 12*€300) and calculate scenarios with different average returns (3-12%, for example). See what comes out in the end and consider whether the dividend from your accumulated capital will carry you through your retirement. But also consider inflation! You should factor that in as well. €1,000 may only be worth €500 in 30 years or so. I found out through this exercise that I should save more than just 10%. I now save and invest 25% of my income.
That's pretty much it. As a minor hack, I can recommend calculating how much you can afford to spend daily on expenses (excluding fixed costs and savings rates). The day view is more tangible than the month view. You'll be surprised that it may be less than you think. Even high earners can quickly end up with only €20-€40 per day.
Level 9: Pursue Your Passions
We are approaching the top of the fulfilment pyramid and, thus, the highest levels of the Deliberate Diligence Lifestyle Blueprint. If you have mastered Levels 01-08, you have completed the mandatory program for setting the course towards a happy and satisfied life.
The challenge is to defend the habits and mindset shifts you have acquired over time and demonstrate consistency, adaptability, and resilience. For example, you need to adjust your system when you have children.
But there is still more to do. You must work on what truly drives and motivates you day in and day out. I'm talking about your passion projects. It doesn't always have to be the same thing. One year you want to become a professional cyclist. The following year it's singing and music. After that, entrepreneurship grabs your attention. It is vital that these are YOUR self-determined passions, and no one is dictating them to you.
They don't necessarily have to be projects, either. Maybe you find the end of the 19th century fascinating and want to explore the literature that emerged in detail. Or perhaps you want to learn digital painting, for example. Whatever floats your boat!
My corporate job is gratifying, and I can freely express myself. But it's just not my business. There are many dependencies, and the beneficiaries of the company's success are many, of which you are only one.
In your passion project, it's different: your time, your creativity, your risk, and, therefore, also your reward. Your passion projects replace the meaningless entertainment you gave up at Level 3. Being a master of your schedule and finding 1-2 hours a day to pursue your passion, despite your many responsibilities will make you happier and more satisfied than anything else. It's pure freedom.
At this point, I don't want to give you any tips on pursuing your passion or what passion is good. I want to motivate you to recognize and consistently pursue your passion.
Deliberate-Diligence.com is my (current) passion project. I have always wanted to learn or even write a book to help people in their journeys. For years, I procrastinated. The first article was a flop, but I finally tackled it and haven't regretted it for a second. Yes, it takes away more time from your already busy schedule. Yes, it's uncertain whether there is an ROI. But every minute I can work on it fulfils me.
I want to give you one crucial piece of advice: pursue your passion project before work, not after work. Finding the time may not be easy, but try investing at least one hour, preferably two, daily in your passion. This creates a sense of control and fulfilment you shouldn't miss out on.
You will be a completely transformed, much more interesting person.
You will be unrecognizable.
You will feel like you have finally arrived.
Level 10: Build Your Empire
Level 10 of the Deliberate Diligence Lifestyle Blueprint is about building your empire, but don't worry; it's not as mafia-like as it sounds. What it means is that you should try to monetise your passion project.
Why? Because aside from your corporate job, you're probably investing more time in your passion project than anything else. You're training skills that have value and can get paid for that value.
There are three dimensions to this:
- The first dimension is purely business-related. In your corporate job, you're trading time for income. It's fair but not ideal. Aiming for additional leveraged income that doesn't directly correlate with your time input would be best. It's "leveraged" because it's based on intellectual property, capital or labour. Capital and labour are out of the question for most Solopreneurs, so this could be content you create that can work for you for years to come or an app you develop that you can sell infinitely without incurring additional costs. It's not as easy as it sounds, as creating and selling your content or app can be time-consuming. But it's worth it. The idea is to break through the corporate salary ceiling and bridge the gap between your expected and actual income through a side gig. That's the path I've chosen.
- The second dimension is that true mastery of your craft requires creation and selling. Selling forces you to stop thinking solely about yourself and wonder how you can create value for others with your skills. You give something to society, and society rewards you for it. Selling ensures you don't stay in your little bubble but open up to the world and your customers. This higher level of mastery will further increase your fulfilment and generate sustainable results.
- The third dimension is learning. I never thought of sales and marketing as skill sets one should have, but now that I'm immersed in them, I realise how important they are. It's not just about sales; it's about storytelling, understanding people and groups of people, finding sound value propositions, understanding relationships, negotiating, and meeting new people. These skills will help you in your passion project and all areas of your life.
Solopreneurship is a mega-trend right now, and I'm suggesting in Level 10 that you jump on board. I believe that's the key to completing your fulfilment pyramid. I'm at the turning point between Levels 9 and 10, so I can share my learnings with you live in the coming weeks and months.
Just a warning: solopreneurship and personal branding are popular, and many gurus out there are trying to sell you their stuff. That's okay, but unfortunately, some make false promises: They promise you you can turn your side gig into a 6-figure business in just an hour a day.
Sorry, but that's not true. It would be true if you only had to write a blog article for an hour every morning. But you also have to manage multiple platforms (blog, newsletter, social media accounts) and actively engage with others in the social network to get noticed. There is also the regular need for business development. If you want to make significant revenue, it's more like a part-time or full-time job.
The good thing about the Deliberate Diligence Lifestyle Blueprint is that you don't need to make a lot of money from your passion project. Your income is secured through your main job, and everything you earn from your side gig is extra. That lets you approach the situation more calmly, and you will be happy with every additional euro you make because you can transform it into capital for your investments.
Congratulations on making it through this lengthy blog post! I know staying focused for that long can be tough, but if you're facing similar challenges to those I did 15 years ago, I hope you found the time well-spent. For those who don't have an immediate need, feel free to skim through and focus on the parts that catch your eye.
In conclusion, I want to speak directly to those intrigued by the value proposition I presented initially, my personal transformation and the solution I've outlined.
Unfortunately, I can't offer you a book or a masterclass with step-by-step instructions right now (I'll create those in the coming weeks and months). However, what I can offer you is the following:
- Add me on social media and contact me via DM with your specific situation. I don't have much time, and answers might take a while, but I'll do my best to address each case as thoroughly as possible.
- Subscribe to the blog and follow me on social media to stay updated on the detailed content related to the concepts I've discussed and to get notified when I lunch the masterclass content.
Until next time! 👍