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As we grow up, we’re taught to think a certain way – both explicitly and implicitly. It’s so hard to further the concept of individual thought when we are bombarded with quite the opposite every corner we turn. Join the masses, do what you’re told, we are all in the struggle together. Except, we don’t have to be.

snowmobile iceland johnny ward
An example of my Monday morning, snow mobiling across a glacier in Iceland at sunrise

Implicitly though, the message is all around us. It’s in every billboard advertisement, it’s in every movie, it’s in music videos, general chit chat. It’s in the girl and guy laughing in the gym after work, and the new Porsche ad showing a guy finishing up in the office. It’s on Coca Cola labels, educational handbooks and all over Tinder. Follow the rules, sell your time, work ridiculous hours and hopefully there’s a slim chance over a series of years you will rise to the top of the pile. Naturally the system fails to mention the shape of this pile, the pyramid doesn’t let us all succeed, the masses have to stay at the bottom to support the top. Still, grind it out, 30 more years, you’ll get there eventually…. Hmmm.

“Don’t judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree”

Explicitly it’s there too.  Our parents tell us to do our homework (just as they were told to do theirs), toe-the-line, blindly trust our teachers. Our teachers tell us to come to school on time, study hard even in subjects that we neither like nor excel in, keep your mouths shut, only ask questions when summoned, and even then make sure the questions are only questioning the topic at hand, nothing deeper. Our university lecturers give us reading lists, coursework with certain criteria to uphold, we have to regurgitate prose from text books that often the lecturers themselves wrote,  that’s just great, thanks. Finally we get to what we have so carelessly named ‘the real world’, and it gets even worse from here.

You’ve managed to at least pretend to be normal, average, to fit in, for 25 years or so by now. You’re doing so well. We even have graduation parties to celebrate just how normal you are, look around you, thousands of other people celebrating the same thing. $100k dollars of valuable education. You can’t really remember what you learned? Or worse, you can remember it but you realise you can’t really apply it in the real world? Sssssh, perfect your Curiculum Vitae. That’s what matters today. Now, subscribe to a career for the next 45 years, suffer with a mortgage for the vast majority of that time, keep up with the Jones’ next door, buy a suit that you hate. When you work even longer hours, and get paid a little more, you can look forward to buying a suit you hate a little less. See? There’s always light at the end of the tunnel.

If you’re generation Y, like me, perhaps you’ll have a quarter-life crisis. Well done, seriously. The worst thing to be done here though is to quit your job, freak out, jump industries/careers and repeat the same mistakes all over again, yet that’s what most people seem to do.

And here we have it. This is all acceptable to society. This bumbling path of unfulfilled dreams and external, non-consequential stresses about deadlines and projects that you really couldn’t care less about. Yet this is seen the sane choice. The choice people pat you on the back for. The choice that fuels those tacky ‘CONGRATULATIONS ON YOUR PROMOTION’ Hallmark cards. The choice that your parents made, your siblings have made, your friends are making. We all suffer together, it’s just how it’s done. Except, it doesn’t have to be. Not in 2016, not in the modern world.

You work for a company for 40 years hoping that one day you’ll earn $250k+ and be financially free. That financial freedom cost you most of your life’s freetime, more stress than you could imagine AND even worse, you probably won’t even reach that point. There are only so many $250k positions in each company, and remember the shape of the pyramid from above? Yup, most of us fill the bottom half of it.

Tell someone that you’re in your 20s/30s/40s, and you’ve decided you don’t want a life like that, you want more free time, you wanna set your own hours, you wanna create something beautiful, inspire and educate. You wanna fast track the journey to $250k+, and you don’t want to rely on someone else to hand you the ‘opportunity’. Tell something THIS, and they’ll tell you you’re crazy! Baffling.

I’ll never be able to join that ‘real world’. People take a gap year to postpone it, maybe they take a career-break to escape it for a while. If the desire to avoid the real world is so strong, perhaps it’s time to understand we never have to adopt it. That lifestyle doesn’t need to own us anymore. The internet is burgeoning. Import/export is booming. The world needs content creators. Working remotely is the future. Be free.

I see true sanity as choosing a life you truly want to live. One you don’t dream of escaping from. One where you smile more than you frown, where you have adventures and meet others who you inspire, and who inspire you. A life full of excitement and fulfilment. That’s sanity. The alternative? You can keep it. Hope to see you around somewhere, somewhere beautiful x

build a life you dont need a vacation from


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Got a question? Wanna comment? I'd love to hear from you

25 thoughts on “Motivational Monday; Sanity

  1. Dude! You are really such a genuine inspiration and an amazing example for people to take the step to follow their real dreams and passions.
    This article can’t be better written, as your other pages on this blog.
    You have understood everything and more and more people should get reminders on those truths (and concepts) you write so well about..
    Your base is in Bangkok, you remind me in some ways, Sean Bunarahinan, in terms of deep sincere kindness and wisdom!

  2. Thanks a 1000 times over for spending the time to share your knowledge. I very much appreciate the info

  3. Very true!
    What specific area would you recommend?
    I am coming to Chicago next month, and am wondering what the best location for me to stay would be.
    I am looking to see the city, but don’t really have all that much in mind, just yet. The ideal place would give me a “feel” for the city and its

    history and be close to the most important tourist attractions.
    Surely I can find nice accommodation on
    What specific area would you recommend?

  4. Pingback: Travelling With Kids On An Extended Trip: Top Five Things to Consider Before You Go | One Step 4Ward
  5. I was at the Blogger Conference where you gave such a great speech and you talked about this blog post. Thank you.! I started my blog 1 year ago and always thought “wow Id love blog for a living” and always thought that it was just a pipe dream but after your speech Im truly inspired to go make that come true.! Im taking your advice and im starting to blog everyday and approach people/brands, Im going to invest in a domain name and really try and make a go of it.!
    Well done and thank you for proving to the world that we dont need to follow the herd.!


  6. That totally spoke to me and about me….I know there’s some creative energy deep down inside me, strong desire to do something with my life, and especially to travel ..and though it’s gotten stronger in the last two years, I’ve kept sitting on it, and am just getting by in a boring existence. Maybe am scared of stepping out, maybe am lazy but sometimes what we need is just a slap in the face like this to wake us to reality.

  7. Hi Johnny – your observations cut through the crap like paint-stripper on a sun-bleached porch door!

    Too many of us are willing to compromise the creativity our Creator gave us, and ditch our dreams and in exchange for what?

    Decades of dull daily doldrums, mind-numbing meetings, and being obligated to kow-tow to managers whose leadership skills couldn’t negotiate them out of a wet paper bag!

    And the trade-off for selling our lives, loves and dreams?
    Well nothing really. A bunch of so-called money which has no intrinsic value and isn’t backed up by anything.

    We’re all just slaving for the big Global Corporation, earning Play Money to Spend in the Company Store.
    Except you of course!

    Which is why this (former) Castlewellan man salutes another (former) Castlewellan man.

    Yrs Timothy

  8. Life’s about following your heart & dreams, whether that’s traveling the world, having a family or making a difference as a teacher. Pursue whatever makes YOU happy.

  9. Amazing post. You have a way of cutting through, and getting to the core. The first article I read of yours lead me to start my own blog, and every post I have read since has kept me motivated. Thank you for your posts

  10. “Finally we get to what we have so carelessly named ‘the real world’, and it gets even worse from here.”

    Wow. This line really hit me hard. It’s so true that almost everyone calls it ‘the real world’ yet I guess it doesn’t have to be (and probably shouldn’t be) ‘the real world’ for everyone…

  11. You write beautifully and that was the most poignant post I’ve read in a long time! Your so right and I hope to attempt to follow in your footsteps soon with my blog! Lots of learning but it’s great to have such inspiration!

  12. Thanks for the well-timed read. It’s articles like yours that further inspire me to live the life I dream of. Right now I am working 50 hours a week at a job I don’t care about, to pay for a house that I don’t need. I have no idea why! All the while I dream about exploring the world. I know it’s reality, I just have to make that leap. I love following your travels and writings, they keep me working towards creating my own!

  13. I hope your motivation for writing this is just to inspire people to think outside the box and not to take a dig at those who choose a more traditional life. Whenever I read something like this the author inevitably writes about the corporate world and forgets about the thousands of other useful jobs that people do. I am a nurse caring for people with addictions, my daughter is also a nurse caring for the elderly and my son is concreter all of us contribute to society and not one of us works in a cubicle. My point is that true freedom is found in choice and choosing what makes you happy. I applaud you for what you have done with your life and love those that inspire others but lets not forget that the world also needs those that are happy to stay put. Having said all that I’ve had people look at me like I’m crazy because I plan on quitting and travelling for an extended time. People don’t even think it’s possible.

  14. Awesome post! I’ve been traveling for a while now but my best friend just had this realization when a family member of his had a serious medical issue right after retiring. Waited his entire life for “one day” and now he’s not able to do much. The time really is now.

  15. Thanks for the inspiring Monday morning read, I am an inspired young student on his path to live a life of freedom and inspire this passion and motivation I have inside of me onto others, whilst changing the world perspective. The time is now!

  16. Uplifting Monday read! I wanted you know – you had planted a beautiful “freedom seed” in someone’s heart and mind 🙂 Thank you for sharing!

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