Your Life, Your Pace, Your Rules

Los Mariachis: Your Life, Your Pace, Your RulesRecently, Abubakar Jamil asked me to write about the life lessons I learned so far, in order to contribute to a huge series he is hosting on the topic. While I feel a bit too young to look back in retrospect and share the ultimate wisdom, there are some lessons I have learned that will hopefully accompany me during the next 70 years of my life.1 Here they are.

Your Life

Maybe it was when my uncle died when he was only 65 years old, never to enjoy his pension after a stressful life with his job being the center. Maybe it was the day I woke up in hospital after some stupid surgery and wondered if this was the way life was meant to be. (It’s not.) Maybe it was when I first read Seneca, Tom Hodgkinson, or Hermann Hesse.

It’s your life, and you only got one.

Your Pace

Maybe it was when I was lying in my hammock on a ship that was running upstream the Amazon, living so slowly I was merely breathing anymore. Maybe it was when I read In Praise of Slow. Maybe it was when having a large Italian lunch with my former boss, spending three hours outside the office just to enjoy great food, light wine, and profound conversation.

You can live it at your own pace.

Your Rules

Maybe it was during one of these nights with cheese fondue binge and lots of red wine, listening to my friend Franck talking about the evils of work and how to avoid them. Maybe it was when I married by wife at young age and we were finally able to live together, with no more bureaucracy and boundaries, visa regulations and paperwork in the way. Maybe it was the moment I booked my ticket to Cartagena, in order to write my diploma thesis in the Caribbean rather than in the German winter.

You are free to make your own rules.


Fact is I cannot really pin down when I learned these life lessons. Maybe that’s because they are universal and ever-present. They reinforce and prove themselves again and again, if we are only willing to see. They prove themselves during moments of clarity and overwhelm, with company and when being alone, in the office and in the park, early at dawn and in the middle of the night.

Hell, they prove themselves in this very moment, as I am writing these lines in my hotel patio and five mariachis enter the scene. It’s past 10pm on a Monday evening and they come to play at a birthday dinner, waking up the guests that went asleep so early they ran danger to miss the party!

Your life, your pace, your rules.

These are lessons that have been written down a million times, in one form or another. They have been promoted in literature, in theater, in movies, and in popular culture. They have been spread by religious leaders, by rock stars and by self-help gurus. I personally have written about them several times, and will continue to do so. Because even though every single one of us has learned these lessons in our very own way already, we seem to have a special talent to ignore them.

That’s why I put them into my blog’s tagline: Your life, your pace, your rules.


Some of us have it easier. Some of us have rich parents or a rich spouse. Some of us are born into well-connected families. Some of us have higher skills, a smarter brain, a stronger body.

Many of us have it harder. Many of us are born and raised in poverty. Many of us are prosecuted because of our gender, race or religion, because of our political or sexual orientation. Many of us are disabled, chronically sick, tired, pessimistic or depressed.

All of us are born and raised in some situation beyond our control, and then it’s up to us to make something of it.

Our life, our pace, our rules.

I personally was lucky in many ways, and I still struggle at times. But you know what? I have met many, many people that were born into complete shitholes and they still managed to live a fulfilled and happy life. And I’ve met the rich and the beautiful, and they were living overwhelmed on the verge of depression.

It’s not all about luck. It’s not all about ability, neither. Sometimes, things don’t work out as planned. The only remedy? Try again – or try something different. Try harder – or try smarter. Take a stand – or take two steps back and relax. But don’t despair.

Because this is your life and you only got one of it. You can live it at your own pace, and you can make your own rules.


Nobody’s perfect. I know that all too well from personal experience: I’m a recovering perfectionist, slowly grasping that perfectionism all too often leads to stagnancy and procrastination. I ain’t got the perfect body, I ain’t got the perfect attitude, I ain’t got the perfect skills. I ain’t got the perfect blog, the perfect smile, the perfect haircut. I ain’t got the perfect cash flow, I ain’t got the perfect laptop, I ain’t got the perfect life.

And still, this is my life, I can live it at my own pace, and I can make my own rules. Flawed and all, but still self-determined.

Why do I keep repeating that? The reason is that I want you to become a friendly anarchist, no matter what’s your political color.

This doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t work on making this world a better place and merely focus on ourselves. This doesn’t mean we shouldn’t fight against inequalities. This doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t stand up against the injustices we experience. We should do all that!

But then, we should also take responsibility for our own lives, and live them to the fullest – despite the problems we encounter. Not because our happiness merely depends on our own abilities and society at large should be ignored. But because it’s both fulfilling and empowering to do so. And I believe that fulfilled and empowered people are able to make changes in society, too.

Here’s a little secret: Living life to the fullest doesn’t mean you have to do “epic shit” and be “pure walking awesomeness” all the time. Don’t stress out about it. It only means that you do what you want to do. That’s it. Because you’ve got one life only and it’s up to you how you use it.

Your life, your pace, your rules.

There are lessons that cannot be repeated often enough. Once you really get it, you’ll probably delete your feed reader, shut down your computer, and never look back. Because you suddenly might have some more important stuff to do. That’s fine with me. Actually, it would brighten up my day. Maybe we could still meet for coffee some day. Just let me know.

  1. Yes, I’m an optimist rather than even younger than you thought. []


  1. I love this Fabian – that’s a very wise head on those young shoulders. The message I get from you is “just be yourself” – not what the world expects you to be. And that is a wonderful message.


  2. Amazing and moving words Fabian, that’s got to be the best explanation of a tagline I’ve ever seen!

    But close my feed reader? That’s dangerous talk!

  3. Thank you Steve, Milo and Sarah! Appreciate your kind words!

    @Milo: And you know I love to play with fire! ;)

  4. Amazing writings. You should’ve asked the mariachis to put on the corpsepaint and play some black metal!

  5. Excellent post Fabian, and I’m so glad to include it in the Life Lessons Series.

    I loved the way you put it, “…perfectionism all too often leads to stagnancy and procrastination”. So true.

    Thank you for sharing with us these insights. :)

  6. Fabian – I am looking forward to the day you write your FIRST of MANY Friendly Anarchist books because then I’d be the first in line to purchase a copy. Then, depending on cash flow, I’d purchase a gazillion more for my friends and family who could most certainly take a page out of your book. What a great way for me to start the day by reading your exceptional words of wisdom with a cup of tea in hand while listening to mariachi music!

    1. Patricia, you are too nice! Biggest compliment I ever got, and I’d surely love to write a Friendly Anarchist book some day!
      Glad to read you enjoyed tea and mariachis! :)

  7. I see from mountaintop to mountaintop.
    I calculate the shortest route so that I may reach the top.
    I cross the ebb of the great tide and up the mountain my child climbs.
    I see from mountaintop to mountaintop.
    I calculate the shortest route so that I may reach the top.
    I see freedom walking on crooked legs as we reach the top.
    I see from mountaintop to mountaintop.
    I calculate the hardest route so that I may not reach the top.
    I come to the ebb of the great tide and down the valley my child slides.

    “Your life, your pace, your rules.”

    Cheers Fabian

  8. Hey Fabian – Just followed a link over here from Mars Dorian’s blog. Love everything about your site, man. From the header to the name to your philosophy. Sounds like we have a lot in common. If you’re ever in the Midwest of the US, drop me a line!

    1. Thanks Trevor, glad you like the site! Friendly Anarchism and the Axis of Awesome seem to have quite a few things in common, indeed! :)

  9. Hey Fabian. I think it’s so important to live on your own terms. For me, if I don’t life is nothing other than a series of present and future regrets.

    1. Thanks Ali! Looking at the past to learn and planning for the future is important, but only to a certain extent. When it comes to living full of regrets, something is going wrong for sure…

  10. — Living life to the fullest doesn’t mean you have to do “epic shit” and be “pure walking awesomeness” all the time.
    — Amen…

    1. Had to put that there, Tracy… too many people nowadays believe you have to base jump every morning from your apartment building in order to enjoy life… ;)

  11. This is awesome dude, your blog serves as inspiration to me right now, you see i plan to spend 2011 traveling. i guess i’m leaving the typical gen y troubles: a small cubicle from 9-5 and a shitty career that i never really enjoyed. i do plan to go to college, tho, but i’m not in a hurry, i just recently dropped out at 23 when i realized that the life i was living was obviously not the life that i wanted. i already have my one way ticket to mexico city wich is my first stop. we’ll see what happens! but anyway great blog it really helps a lot.

    1. Hey Raúl, thanks a lot! I’m glad to read that… one way to Mexico sounds like a GREAT way to get moving, man!
      The way won’t always be easy, but if you feel it’s what you want to do, it’ll definitely be worth it. Keep me updated on how things go!

  12. Yes, and it is “choice” that actually allows us to do what we want with our lives.

    “It’s my life and I’ve only got one” has been my mantra for a long time now. Great post!

  13. I really like this. It’s about living your life, your way. You also cover all the ways that we may think and I think it’s interesting because our paradigm and reality is each so different. I love learning about others’ beliefs because it helps me expand and grow regularly.

    Beautiful post!

  14. These kind of simple but profound posts/thoughts are sometimes just taken for granted but also a slap in the face. Why? Cause sometimes we just needed to be reminded of it; that Sometimes we just need to relax and enjoy life.

  15. Well…this is epic and awesome in it’s own, simple yet perfect prose.
    Love it, Fabian. And like you said, it has been said before….but bears repeating and reminding ALL the damn time. I agree with all and always appreciate the reminder.
    So glad we met!

    1. Hey Lisa, thanks a lot! I think you are one of the persons living these lessons – great to see that! Hope things are fine in Chicago! :)

  16. ”All of us are born and raised in some situation beyond our control, and then it’s up to us to make something of it.”

    Regaining control! We stop with the ‘why is this happening to us?’ and start asking ‘what am I going to do about it?’.

    To my mind, that’s when it starts.

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