Live Fast. Die Young
An old friend of mine died recently. We were business partners, roommates, and (at times) rivals.
Patrick was a real dichotomy of inner demons, vices, insanity, and redeeming features — work ethic, competitiveness, creativity, masterful persuasive ability, and ambition. I learned a lot from him.
His body was found in his vehicle in Florida, it was a non-violent death. He was not in imminent danger of death from chronic illness so when it happened everyone was really surprised — but not me. I saw this day coming for him over half a decade ago and I became even more certain of it more recently.
About ten years ago we were doing what everyone who knew us will probably remember us for: partying at a nightclub. That night we were rolling in a brand new Maserati (that the company we worked for had insanely bought) and as the lady’s night crowd was spilling out of the entrance of the lounge, Patrick illegally parked that Italian beast of a car in front. An attractive older woman posed with the car and Patrick invited her to sit in the red leather racing seats for a photo. The car was idling and Patrick encouraged the woman to rev the engine, the exhaust snarled like an angry cat, making quite the scene. At that moment a cop approached, assumed the car was the woman’s, closed her door for her, and ordered her to move the car, which she promptly did. Patrick and I were dismayed to see this woman whose name we didn’t even know drive off into the night with the $125,000 car. Luckily she just drove around the corner and parked the car, we ran after her and got our car back. Patrick invited her to after-party with us and three other random girls in a yellow car followed us back to our friend’s apartment nearby — these sorts of things happen in the nightlife with a car that costs as much as a house. Back at the apartment, the woman and I ended up in a bedroom and started having sex. I kept hearing the others rudely peaking in at us, finally balls deep Patrick and my other friend burst into the bedroom, cheering me on. I promptly withdrew and kicked my friends out.
Another crazy night with Patrick did not result in such a desirable climax.
We had been drinking vodka all night from a friend’s bottle service table in a nightclub. Patrick had foolishly driven his pimped-out Honda Accord to the club. Leaving the clubbing district Patrick decided to get cigarettes and pulled into a yellow-taped-off gas station. As he pulled into a parking spot, several security guards (or cops, I’m not sure) approached our car. Patrick freaked out and screeched out of the spot, as he did the men broke out three windows of our car with batons. As he peeled out of the gas station he clipped a girl’s Jetta’s bumper. A couple of guys in a white Jeep took up hot pursuit of us, we raced around downtown running red lights trying to get away from them. The two vigilantes pursued us on the freeway for about 25 minutes. Eventually, we lost them by taking an off-ramp and killing our lights.
He had serious legal troubles the entire time I knew him.
I remember once when we were business partners receiving a frantic phone call from him that he was being pulled over by the cops and expected to be thrown in jail for an uncertain period of time. Imagine my surprise when he walked in the front door of our apartment that evening with a cute black girl, it turned out he had convinced the judge to let him out of jail and had managed to pull this girl who was being released at the same time. Who picks up a girl from jail?
After too many episodes of his insanity and impulsiveness, I decided to end our business partnership.
He was very cruel to me. He was just ruthless about pointing out and mocking my faults and weaknesses during our business partnership and time as roommates. Which by the way is a super bad idea, never move in with your business partners, as convenient as it may seem, it’s not worth the ongoing disturbance in domestic tranquility.
Whenever people ask me about business partners, my response is that it’s almost never worth it, giving another person 50% of the earnings of your business forever. I wouldn’t even consider it unless the business partner was going to 10X the earnings of the business and even then there’s probably some way to structure it as a strategic or affiliate partnership instead of a marriage of business.
He was better at almost everything that mattered in business than I, and he let me know it with yelling and constant pressure which was super stressful but at the same time gave me serious impetus to improve.
Being on the receiving end of the Steve-Jobs-style of constant negative feedback management, for my personality at least, made me better.
It was an increasingly abusive relationship (the one genuinely abusive relationship I’ve had in my life) and one night I had a dream that I killed him with a knife and that was the sign I needed to move on whatever the cost.
We were going in different directions with the business so I just signed over my ownership of the company to him. Making sure to spill no ink on a non-compete agreement.
He ended up being more successful than me, going on to own a nightclub and live in a nicer condo than me. While my competitive side was naturally a bit bitter that my ex-business partner was so successful, mostly I was happy for him and we got along pretty well for being ex-business partners. We actually hung out from time to time, the last time I saw him in person he was test-driving a brand new BMW sports sedan, which we raced through the winding roads of the Colorado Rockies.
From the moment we split up, I had the odd thought that I would ultimately end up more successful because I would outlive him.
Stress vs Vice.
This guy was a case study of how a high-performance Entrepreneur should NOT manage their stress:
- He drank A LOT. About once a week he would get really drunk.
- He smoked cigarettes voraciously.
- He had a pretty consistent cocaine habit that was moderate most of the time but occasionally he would get crazy and nose bleeds would ensue.
- His diet was just whatever was convenient and easy.
- He would yoyo between intense workaholism interspersed with periods of over-the-top hedonism.
- He would yell quite a bit. A lot of great Entrepreneurs seem to channel their anger into productivity, which he did but he also just had a lot of excess rage.
A few years ago I wrote a letter of recommendation to a judge who was presiding over one of his cases urging that Patrick do a mindfulness practice. I don’t think he ever took my advice.
The Desirability of Insanity.
He was a natural seducer who almost always had a main girlfriend and a side chick (or three).
In pop psychology, you hear these platitudes about women being naturally attracted to bad boys just because they are confident. Spending so much time around Patrick disabused me of this notion; (many) women deeply crave insanity, they masochistically desire the emotional roller coaster. He dated a lot of strippers and nightclub cocktail waitresses but also some pretty classy, more professional women who were equally indulgent of his bad behavior.
Patrick proved that you can get away with doing the most depraved things to a woman, as long as you do not bore her.
He was very conscious of the tremendous liability that his vices were to his success in business; he would quit booze and cigarettes for weeks at a time but they would call him back.
Like many naturally attractive men, his real weakness was women; his self-destructive benders were almost always a result of his chasing skirts that wanted to party. Hard to stay sober when you’re surrounded by women who want to party.
On Male Invincibility.
There’s a self-destructive certainty with the male personality type that is highly competent and impulsively hedonistic. He’ll get himself into a world of trouble and pain because of bad decisions made pursuing momentary pleasure. But at the same time, he’s so competent at making money and has such social capital that he can always pay the cost for his bad decisions. Despite their bad decisions, life keeps rewarding them; which is insidiously deceptive to the male ego; he will convince himself that he’s bulletproof and that the regular rules of society don’t apply to him.
A less competent man will eventually hit rock bottom because of bad decisions, recognize their inability to make good decisions in a crucial life area, and get help; to figure out how to outsource their decision-making in a particular domain.
For example; I smoked for about five years and a very attractive woman gave me the initial motivation to quit; not by supporting me but by rejecting me. A mutual lady friend of mine had for weeks been telling her friend, a very attractive Korean-American girl all about me and she was, according to my friend, quite interested.
Our mutual friend set up a night out at a club for all of us; we hit it off royally and had sexy chemistry on the dance floor.
Unfortunately, she saw me sneaking a few puffs of a cigarette outside. I remember this disappointed look on her face, the night ended with a kiss on the cheek, and she was pretty unresponsive to my follow-up calls and texts.
If I were a more attractive man — a more competent seducer — maybe she would have put up with my nasty habit, as many women do, but I wasn’t.
Because of my incompetence, in my mind, I framed it that my bad habit of smoking had cost me the opportunity of having a super cute Korean girlfriend. Which was all the motivation I needed to quit smoking; come to think of it that was the turning point in my mid 20’s that led to me developing a real passion for healthy living.
I became more certain that he was going to die when he started spending time in Latin America. He had a nice place in San Jose, Costa Rica
I lived in Latin America for about three years and I have a great love for that culture but those countries are very bad places for those with impulsive personalities…
Latin cultures are all about the hedonistic imperative; you’re expected to party with total abandon and all bad decisions made while under the influence are forgivable. If you have a normal social life in a Latin country you will be a functional alcoholic.
In my time in Latin America, I knew a couple of people that simply partied so hard they ended up in the ground. So when I saw Patrick traveling there frequently, I thought to myself; he’s probably going to die…
Now we all have influences which are like people whose books we read or gurus whose teachings we follow but this is just scratching the surface. For comparison, if you are interested in a country…
- You can read its entire Wikipedia page.
- You can watch a bunch of Youtube videos about it.
- You could study its language.
- You could even use social networking websites to meet and chat with people there.
But you really won’t know the country the way you would if you actually went there. Not even close.
- Living in the country you’ll discover that the headlines about it misrepresent it.
- You’ll stumble upon cultural idiosyncrasies.
- You’ll identify the modicum of truth in the stereotypes.
- You’ll observe very subtle ways that things are done there that are profoundly foolish or wise.
Similarly, in personal development, I think there’s great instructional value in having people in our lives that get results by doing things counter-intuitively and that’s what Patrick was for me. He broke all the pop psychology and self-help rules yet still got laid and paid like crazy because he was what’s called a dark triad man and unapologetically self-interested…
The educational institutions…
And the self-help books…
Don’t tell you that being self-interested gets results; especially brazen, declared self-interest. You don’t want to be shy about it. In modern society, we are so smothered with fake altruism, moral self-aggrandizement, and virtue signaling that honest self-interest is very attractive.
However, looking at his wake of destruction — business partnerships torn asunder, heartbroken women, wrecked cars, broken bottles, aborted pregnancies, breached contracts, and legal cases — he took it way too far. He pushed self-interest well over the line of what’s ethical and decent into the territory of predation and brutality.
Again, I don’t know specifically how he died. His parents have not yet released those details, I don’t know if they will but I think it’s pretty safe to assume that his propensity for vice is mostly to blame.
Your 30’s are when your habits start catching up with you. Throughout your 20’s you can succumb to vice daily, you can drink and chase girls all night long, every night and you’ll look and feel about the same.
Or you choose the hustle, channel all that youthful vigor into your work, spending your nights and weekends slaving away on the computer or telephone building something meaningful and (unless you get really lucky) you won’t be that much more well off than your peers who work 40-hour weeks and spend their weekends blowing their paychecks at the bar.
But in the third decade is when our decisions start adding up.
- That fun, carefree party guy who didn’t practice ethical hedonism, is really starting to look like a loser compared to the person who has some savings, financial freedom, and a thriving career or business.
- That hot girl who used her sexual market value to ride the carousel of cosmopolitan fabulousness through her 20s is in her 30’s starting to wonder where all the good guys went and is profoundly discontent compared to that plain religious girl who got married at 22 and has three kids now.
- And Patrick, he died at just about 30 years old.
In a weird way his death is satisfying to me, I’m not happy he died but it relieves some cognitive dissonance I had; seeing how life rewarded him so handsomely for bad behavior. His premature expiration hints at karmic justice.
Some people’s lives are merely meant to serve as warnings to others.
Pop psychology has told us not to give people advice. That it’s almost totally useless to give people advice unless they ask us for it. There’s some truth to that but I resolve to be more frank with the people close to me. Our most intimate relationships should be strong enough that we can apply some pressure on the other person to be better.
If someone close to Patrick (which I wasn’t at the time of his death) had put pressure on him to apply his powerful work ethic to getting his vices under control he would likely still be alive and on the path to being a better person. With Patrick, it maybe wouldn’t have made a difference but I bet there’s someone in your life, whose life will surely be shortened and worsened but for your application of pressure to be better.