How to Suck at Life (But trick people into thinking you’re cool…)
From my book How to Be Cross Eyed: Thriving Despite Your Physical Imperfection — a mémoire and lifehacking manifesto
I want to recognize again that a lot of people reading this have it a lot worse than I do. Fate has cursed them with imperfections and circumstances that have made nearly everything that normal people do and find happiness in frustratingly beyond their grasp. It may be easy for them to misconstrue my stories of fast cars, fast women, travel and partying as bragging and they may think…
Jonathan you’re cross eyed but you’re actually pretty good looking, intelligent, capable, witty and confident. Of course you have a good life!
Well, actually I mostly suck at life! I’m naturally quite incompetent and often stupid. I often think that if I was born at a different point in history when there wasn’t so many ways to hack the system, I would have really been a miserable loser! I would have by this time in my life ended up homeless or worse dead and rotting in a ditch (or on some godforsaken bloody battlefield). Like a significant portion of the male population throughout history I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to procreate, I would have totally been a genetic dead end. Thank god we were born at this interesting time when there are so many shortcuts to the good life!
I sucked at sports
Being cross eyed I don’t see the world in three dimensions. I always imagine that it must be really cool to see in three dimensions because when I was younger I would play lots of computer games and I remember the 3D computer games were always way more exciting than the 2D games. But I only get two dimensions which makes me really terrible at anything involving a ball!
I grew up in the era just prior to when teenagers spent the huge amounts of time using technology and youth sports and athletics were a really big deal. For about a decade and a half of life I was really handicapped and excluded from this world of basketball and football that my school mates were so obsessed with. I grew up before this anti-bullying and self esteem push in public schools so I was reminded nearly daily how insubstantial and useless I was.
A couple of other things that suck about being cross eyed; 3D movies are lost on me, I can’t see the 3D effects. 3D just looks blurry and gives me a headache. I tried to watch the movie Avatar with my friends, we got out of the theater and all my friends are acting like they’ve just had a 3 hour visual orgasm, I just had a headache from this blurry movie about blue people.
I sucked at girls
In Middle School and High School I really wanted a girlfriend and was just a stereotypical geek, and this was way before it was cool to be a geek…
I was really skinny, short, not stylish, bad at sports and not very funny so I was just invisible to girls, but I really wanted a girlfriend. You might think I would have joined a band or started DJing or done something that would have made it easier to get a girlfriend. A very naive Jonathan figured out what somehow seemed like a winning approach to getting a nice girlfriend…
I’m going to be a missionary.
By missionary I don’t mean anything to do with the sex position, I mean the kind of person who tries to convince you to join their religion but…
I sucked at being a missionary
I worked a lot of hours at my little job in the neighborhood grocery store to raise enough money to go on a mission trip organized by my church youth group, the odd thing about being a missionary is that they don’t pay you to be a missionary. You actually have to pay to be a missionary.
So we went to this native american Indian reservation in the middle of nowhere in the state of Washington near the Canadian border. I worked really hard all day in the sun, trying to fix poor people’s houses. I’m kind of a clutz, I’m really not very good at fixing things, I accidentally dumped a whole gallon of paint onto this old lady’s little garden which ruined like half the things she was growing. So they moved me to the department where I would entertain kids at the community youth center.
I was a little better there but in my short career as a missionary I ended up proselytizing exactly zero Indians. It also turns out that being missionary isn’t a great way to get a girlfriend. There was this girl I really liked who I had spent all week working beside and then at the BBQ I pulled her aside and asked if I could kiss her. She responded surprised…
“No Jonathan! I have a boyfriend in California. I’m sorry but I just like you as a friend!”
Damnit! I wish girls would tell me they have a boyfriend in California that they are really loyal to before I spend all week telling them jokes and cute things I brooded to myself. You might think that the girls religious enough to go on a mission trip would be interested in a devout young man like me but no such luck! So zero souls saved and zero girlfriend.
In retrospect, obviously the whole missionary phase was a pretty disingenuous and misguided attempt to raise my non-existent sexual market value. I would learn to more honestly and effectively signal value and desire.
I suck at break dancing
While I was missionary I did actually figure out a skill that would get me attention from girls — break dancing.
I taught myself to break dance. But to be honest, I suck at break dancing, I only have like three moves I can do very good and I just do those three moves over and over again. Normal people who can’t break dance at all will see me do these three moves and they think I’m a good dancer but if I’m ever in a battle with another break dancer I always lose. So break dancing didn’t get me a girlfriend but it would get me a little attention from girls which was a big improvement! So guys if you are looking for a winning dating strategy I recommend LESS of the being a missionary approach and more break dancing.
I suck at driving
I was one of those teenagers that failed my driving test to get my drivers license, so I had to take the crappy public transport everywhere for several months but then I took the test again and finally passed it. My dad handed down to me this beat up little purple car (a Geo Metro, I think), which was nonetheless tremendously exhilarating and liberating to own until I wrecked it coming home from church one day (thanks a lot God!)
So I was back on the bus until next summer when I bought this sporty black Saturn coupe. The movie The Fast and The Furious came out so me and my brother put all these underglow lights on the car along with some interior glow that would vibe with the bass of the obnoxious hip hop music that we would roll out too.
Then I did what all young men who waste their paychecks transforming their vehicles into kitschy status symbols do, I went to the club. Unfortunately on my way home I carelessly ran a red light in downtown Denver and wrecked that glowing Saturn that I was so proud of. I was back on the bus and upside down in the negative equity of my auto loan.
About a year later I finally paid it off then bought the worst thing I have ever owned in my life, a classic 1985 Porsche 944. It would break down all the time and had all kinds of electrical problems. You would think maybe having a Porsche in high school might get me a girlfriend but no such luck, even a cool looking European sports car couldn’t drive me out of the friend zone.
Once I got my first real job after high school I bought this really stylish V8 Lexus grand touring coupe with chrome wheels, gold badging, a striking burgundy red paint job and tinted windows — it was a thing of beauty! I really loved that car and I ended up actually going to jail for it! I lost my license for excessive speeding tickets but I kept driving the car because I enjoyed it so much. I got pulled over and they sent me to jail for two and a half days. Eventually the Lexus got repossessed by the bank and I was back on the bus.
Several years after that I had a job at an entertainment start up company that this insane, rich guy was financing. I don’t mean insanely rich, he was literally insane; with multiple personality, dissociative disorder syndrome. One day he impulsively bought the company this brand new Maserati GranTurismo from Ferrari of Denver (at the time Maserati was a brand of Ferrari).
And guess what I finally got now that I was driving a FUCKING Ferrari… a girlfriend! That’s right! $120K Italian sports car = girlfriend. Math.
I suck at money
You might think that since I’m talking about all these sports cars that I’m really good with money. Not really, I’m quite good at making money but terrible at saving it. I’m a spender. Sometimes a really reckless spender…
One time I bought an entire nightclub full of people drinks. I was drunk on stage at a nightclub and for some reason I was handed a microphone, I tried to make some jokes but nobody was really paying attention so I announced that the bar was open and anyone could buy as many drinks as they wanted on my tab. They spent $300 in 10 minutes. Now I don’t drink much, I spend most of the year sober doing periods of intermittent sobriety for 30 or 60 days.
Now instead of trying to save money with a savings account that I’ll just raid when I need cash I buy gold. It’s a whole lot harder to spend gold (although, I’m trying to change that…) paying overdue rent or impulsively buying a new electronic toy. I’m not smart enough to budget a certain percent of my monthly income into savings so every time I get paid, I immediately spend 5% — 10% of it buying gold — something that’s surprisingly easy and convenient with the advent of digital gold currencies. In the past if you wanted to invest in precious metals you had to spend at the minimum like several hundred dollars buying gold coins that they would ship to you. Now when I get paid say $200 by one of my life coaching clients as soon as the cash hits my Paypal account I buy $20 in digital gold currency which represents gold in a vault. Every couple of months I transform my digital gold into real gold; I have them ship me a portion of my savings. If the economy ever crashes really bad (which it probably will) the dollar value of my gold savings will shoot up into the stratosphere and I’ll look pretty smart!
I’m excited to announce something that the world deserves, which is a new marketplace website to do commerce in gold…
I sucked at being a waiter
I was a waiter at a bunch of different restaurants and I always got fired.
The most embarrassing moment was when I worked at an Applebee’s and we were supposed to up sell the guests these three course combos. One day this dad came in with his two really cute teenage daughters and I was telling them about the three course combos but instead I offered…
I’d like to direct your attention to our three course condoms.
They didn’t even think it was funny.
I sucked at being a car salesman
After failing at being a waiter, I figured:
I like cars, maybe I should get a job as a car salesman.
So I got a job selling Hyundais. The Hyundai dealership was the only one that would hire me. The Hyundai dealership was the first place I ever found myself surrounded by really bitter men — men who had been through a rough divorce, lost their house or were relapsed alcoholics. One of the sales people was this doctor who had lost his license in a malpractice suit, not a happy guy! The sales manager would yell and scream at us if we didn’t sell enough cars over the weekend. One time, I accidentally put gasoline in a diesel Volkswagen, which is really bad for a diesel car; they were not happy with me. That was a tough day.
I was really bad at actually selling the cars so I got fired from the Hyundai dealership. Then I got a job at the Toyota dealership where I also sucked at selling cars, they didn’t fire me but they demoted me from salesman to a lot technician which is the position just slightly senior to being a janitor.
I sucked at corporate america
I was really good at interviewing so I became one of the youngest bankers that US Bank ever hired. They hired me a few weeks before my 21st birthday. I was like an actual banker, not a teller, I opened accounts and managed relationships with business clients. I wasn’t a banker very long before I got fired; I was really bad at paperwork, I hit on a coworker in front of the HR manager — she went out with me actually. Once I accidentally opened an account for an illegal eastern European immigrant — she was pretty cute and I might have been a bit distracted.
The most interesting part of being a banker was the day we got robbed. The vast majority of bank robberies are way less dramatic than in the movies. There’s no guns. No yelling. No crashing vehicles into the bank. Robbing a bank is actually really easy; you just need to walk into a bank, tell the teller that you’re robbing the bank and the teller will hand over all the cash you want and then they always wait for you to leave the bank before calling the police. They are not sneakily reaching for the bank robber alarm button as they count your “unmarked bills”. But most bank robbers eventually get caught and get long jail sentences so it’s really not a very smart crime to commit. That’s pretty much what happened to us. I was working at my desk and my manager briskly walked up and nervously told me
Jonathan, we’ve just been robbed. Call the police. Do you remember the secret word to tell them?
Interestingly, after your bank has been robbed, if things are safe and the robber has left you need to tell the police a secret word to confirm that it’s not a hostage situation. You can imagine in a hostage situation the robber might be holding a gun to your head and telling you: I know that you guys have tripped the alarm. Call the police and tell them that it was a mistake, everything is fine and you don’t need to send officers to investigate! Then you would be talking to the police and saying Yes. Everything is fine here. We don’t need the police. So you need to tell them a special secret word if it’s actually a non-hostage situation otherwise they will send a hostage negotiator and SWAT team with MP5s instead of just a few causal boys in blue with glocks. So I called the police, explained the situation and told them soccer — our secret word. We then asked the customers in the bank to leave and locked the doors. The cops came and did a police report. Then our manager ordered us pizza. Even though there was no danger it was pretty exhilarating to be involved in a bank robbery!
After that I worked for a couple of years managing advertising accounts for Dex Media, the yellow pages company, which I was also pretty bad at. I just generally did not fit in well with the corporate culture; one time after a big company party me and my buddy drag raced our cars in the parking lot in front of one of the vice presidents of the company, we had pretty high performance cars so it made quite a scene!
I just could NEVER get to work on time; this has actually been a real weakness of mine for as long as I can remember, I’m always a few minutes late to whatever my job is.
I sucked at being a nightclub promoter
After I worked in corporate America I was a guy who would throw parties in nightclubs. Which was a super fun job but there was just always some detail of the events that I would drop the ball on.
One time we were throwing this party with all these porn stars and it was crazy packed; we sold 32 bottle service tables and there was like a hundred people in line. All the porn stars showed up stylishly late in their limo and some of them were under 21 years old which I had forgotten to clear with the door staff. The club door staff were real professionals so they were adamantly telling me NO Jonathan. No underage kids are getting into the party without the manager’s consent. The manager had some emergency and was nowhere to be found. Two of the main porn stars started getting really angry with me, imagine a really tall, beautiful woman with giant fake tits, seething mad at you. That’s what I had to deal with except there were two of them and a hundred increasingly irate party goers behind them waiting to get in. Eventually I talked the doormen into letting in the underage girls in but the two main pornstars were pissed at me all night.
I suck at being an internet entrepreneur
Eventually I got sick of the stress of throwing events at nightclubs and started doing business on the internet.
People have always told me that I was a really interesting conversationalist, so I figured I would start a website teaching people to be better conversationalists. I spent 4 months working 20–30 hours a week on a website about how to be a really good conversationalist, but it turns out that this isn’t the kind of thing that people are willing to pay very much money for. Two years later I double checked my accounting and discovered that I had make like $17 total from this website.
So in my life I’ve taught myself all on my own a few valuable skill sets. The first I already told you about, break dancing. The second is developing websites using this open source content management system Joomla. If you haven’t heard about it what you need to know is that it’s a skill set worth at least $70/hourly, often a lot more. It’s remarkable that you spend 12 years in public schools and your skills are worth about $9/hourly but you spend 6 months learning web development from watching Youtube videos and free online courses and your time is worth nearly 10X more!
What I eventually did was move abroad to Latin america because the cost of living is quite low in those countries but the Internet is pretty fast in the large cities. My cost of lodging and food in those countries was like $50 — $100 a week, so I would work like an hour or two and it would cover my basic costs of living. This put me in a position where I could spend like 40 or 50 hours a week working on my website about lifehacking, researching applied neuroscience and cognitive enhancers and afford a not bad life doing a little work for web development clients.
I had this lofty ambition to become a true international businessman, to build a portfolio of clients throughout the world but I found it paid way better to just serve North American clients while living abroad. The few local clients that I picked up in latin america had much smaller budgets and were difficult to work with. I would do barter deals in exchange for room and board; a few times I got a month or two of free rent in exchange for just a few hours of web design work. When I lived in Denver my web design clients would always want to meet with me and talk about the website design and marketing strategy so I would waste like a third of my time doing meetings. It’s way more effective to just communicate via Skype and email. Now I charge a significant premium to clients that I have to actually meet in the real world.
I suck at being a traveler/digital nomad
I’ve spent about 6 years now living abroad doing the slow traveler thing. If I like a city or country I’ll spend a month or two or more there.
But I’m actually not a very good tourist; I’m kind of a workaholic so I don’t take the time to go see the sites. I was always too busy working on the things I was passionate about or socializing. I spent about 4 months in Panama and I never got around to seeing the Panama canal. I’ve been in Europe about 3 years now and I’ve never visited Paris, Rome or London.
When I first traveled abroad I didn’t know that I needed to get a GSM unlocked smartphone so I could access data. This put me in the position of wandering around lost in dodgy latin american cities looking for wifi so I could find my hotel. Now as soon as I arrive in a new place I make a beeline for a cell phone store so I can buy a SIM card.
I spent way too much time living in hostels or dinky hotels when I should have just rented rooms in flats at places that I was going to stay for more than 30 days.
I irresponsibly became an illegal alien in Colombia because I overstayed my tourist VISA by two years. My social circle there was about 50% countrymen of mine, a lot of them spent incredible amounts of time and money becoming legal residents. I just saw procrastinating as a better plan. I’d pay whatever fine they charged me when I finally decided to leave. If I wasn’t hurting anyone and wasn’t at risk of being thrown in jail I just didn’t see the point of following some arbitrary rule. In my life I haven’t followed rules that didn’t make sense to me and it’s yet to really cost me anything. The universe seems to reward the rule breakers a lot more than it rewards the rule followers. Other than that though I was a very good guest in the country, I carefully followed all laws and made not insignificant contributions to the local economy of fancy restaurants, artisanal coffee shops and discotheques. If all illegal aliens were like I was I bet that nobody would have a problem with them!
I was an illegal immigrant. My thoughts on Adiós, America…
This is my book review of Adiós, America by Ann Coulter that Amazon censored.
During the time I was an illegal alien I was actually dating the daughter of this Colombian politician, I had this plan that if I was ever discovered as an illegal, I would talk her into manipulating her father into pulling some strings to help me out but we broke up.
When it finally came time to leave the country my procrastination paid off. It really was not a big problem. I had to spend about 90 minutes at the immigration office and pay a fee of about $300 which was an incredible savings over getting a legit residence VISA. Funnily, I had to write out and sign this little letter saying that I had been a bad boy for overstaying my VISA, was very sorry and wouldn’t do it again. I was deported which turned out to be a surprisingly easy and undramatic experience. I had purchased a ticket to leave the country already so they gave me a document to show customs at the airport so that I wasn’t further detained.
But there’s a couple of very smart things I’ve done as a long term traveler…
- Unlike multitudes of idiotic travelers I’ve met I practiced some temperance and avoided getting really intoxicated. Alcohol and drugs are a consistent factor in the majority of really disastrous, preventable bad things that happen to tourists when they go abroad. I wouldn’t shy away from a few social drinks but I staunchly resisted getting wasted.
- I didn’t give papaya as they say in latin america. I did not do stupid things that made me a conspicuous target of petty criminals like dressing like a tourist or waving a fancy smartphone around on a street. I didn’t trust or follow local characters that approached me in public with some enticing offer. I always watched my back. Thus I’ve avoided being a victim of any crime in 6 years of travel — that’s a pretty good track record!
I suck at learning languages
During my time in latin america I had friends who got fluent in Spanish really easily, they took a couple of classes and then they would just learn the language by osmosis.
Me on the other hand, I did a bunch of private tutoring sessions, I listened to a lot of foreign language podcasts and spent time everyday training with language learning apps (I actually completed the entire Doulingo Spanish course) and my grasp of the language still wasn’t all that great!
There’s three words in Spanish that sound very similar that I used to confuse: Mojado, Mariposa and Morbosa. Which mean wet, butterfly and horny
It would be raining and I would be in a little shop or somewhere… The cashier would ask me…
How are you? Como estas?
I’m very horny! Estoy muy morbosa!
Why are you horny! Porque estas muy morbosa!
Because it’s raining and I don’t have an umbrella. Porque esta lluviendo y no tengo sombrilla.
I’m a fluent Spanish speaker now but I had to do so much more work than most. I’ve spent about 3 years now in Eastern Europe and I still really struggle to wrap my tongue around any slavic language, although I haven’t devoted nearly as much time to learning them.
I suck at seduction
I’ve written quite a bit about seduction and how men can significantly enrich their lives by practicing the art of seduction and following the advice of pickup artists but statistically speaking I’m quite bad at it.
Being a geek over the years I’ve done some tracking with spreadsheets of my closing rates; approaches > number closing > dates > sex — and my performance is not good! I’ve enjoyed that most intimate of female embraces from certainly more lovely women than the average man has but I’ve had to do so much more work! Even though I love the process and nuances of seduction I could never cut it as professional pick up artist because I’m just not that good at it.
Now I’m in a really great, really fulfilling relationship, having been a keen observer and student of sexual dynamics I know that it’s like a top 5% relationship in terms of happiness and functionality but I really had to pay a steep cost in rejection, failure and disappointment for about a decade for it!
As a result of sucking at life, I’m really intense. I suck at almost everything so I really only spend my time doing things I’m really passionate about.
Most people are really meh about the way they spend their time day to day. Or they are just like cool with whatever…
This TV show is cool…
This job is cool…
This relationship is cool…
This food is cool…
I’m the opposite. I’m fire or ice about everything.
- When I’m working I’m really intense about it. Sometimes I start on a project and then like 10 hours later I realize I haven’t had anything to eat and I will almost collapse.
- I’m really intense about philosophy and geeky intellectual subjects.
- I’m really intense about writing.
- I’m really intense about fitness and exercise. I’ve gone for over 100 days straight without missing a single day of brain training or my exercise regimen.
- I’m intense about partying. Mostly when I party I’m sober. I have to make the party happen. I go hard. I start dance battles with people. I talk to everyone. I’ve broken tables that I was dancing on in nightclubs multiple times.
- I’m really intense about health living. Have you ever gotten into a argument on a first date? I have. When I went on my first date with the politician’s daughter we got into quite the vociferous disagreement about love of Coca Cola.
- And there’s things I fucking hate like television. I won’t sit through a movie I dislike. And I won’t eat cabbage; cabbage is a soulless excuse for food that should be left to rot in the field. Don’t put cabbage near me.
- If you’re naturally incompetent like me you’re lucky to live at this odd junction in history where there’s so many shortcuts and ways to fake it till you make it.
- If you’re naturally incompetent like me don’t waste your precious life doing the tedious things that come easily to normal people.
- The ultimate goal of life, whether you like it or not, is reproduction, procreation. Making yourself more sexually attractive and ultimately more fit to be a good parent is the goal that should underlie your efforts towards personal transformation. Anything else and you’ll slip further and further into nihilistic, narcissistic, unfulfilling hedonism and self loathing.