I've Found Happiness: The Lifelong Search Just to be Happy

It's taken me my entire life, and the better part of the past 13 years to find happiness, but I think I've finally done it. For those who have been following my journey for a while, you'll know that my life, this blog, my videos, and everything I do has a common theme or motif. It's simply to find what works, try it myself, then share it with others. Even though my interests and the topics have ranged from online business, entrepreneurship, travel, scuba diving, surfing, minimalism, fitness, social skills, and many more random, seemingly unrelated topics, the core of it has always been to find happiness. Even though I'm sure it'll be different for everyone, I'm hoping that by sharing what has worked for me,  my journey can help some of you reading this today.

I don't share this often, but I didn't have that great of a childhood. It wasn't that bad for any particular reason, but I was never really happy. I didn't have any close friends, never really fit in, was always overweight and was often made fun of. I just never really felt like I belonged. I won't get into it too much here as I'm sure we've all had things from our past that have caused depression, anxiety, and our insecurities, but the good news is that that past was in the past, and today is a new day.

I've realized that we can't change what happened to us regardless of if it was fair or not, but we can choose to dwell in it, or look towards the future and enjoy the present today. In this picture, I found happiness. One could look at it as a terrible photo, taken at bad angle, showing all of my flaws, with the dogs not even looking in the right direction. But for me, it's a great feeling knowing that I no longer care, and can genuinely smile, laugh, and be okay with myself, my situation, and my life. This is happiness, and in this post, i'm going to share with you everything I've learned so far in this long journey.

My Past Self

The reason why I don't talk that much about my former live in America is because it's been such a long time since i've moved and I try not to dwell on it. I honestly wasn't very happy when I was there, and have been trying to distance myself as much as possible from my former self. One thing that most travelers, digital nomads, and expats don't tell you, is that we're all either running from or towards something. It could be from a bad relationship, abuse, family problems, depression, really anything. It can also simply be towards more freedom, sunshine, surf, diving, or opportunities. 

For me it was a combination of both. I'm extremely fortunate that I don't have an addictive personality, as I was so insecure, unhappy and desperate, that I've pretty much tried everything out there to try to find an alternative. I've done drugs, from MDMA, Cocaine, Uppers, Downers, Hallucinogens, Shrooms, you name it, and probably would have ended up in an opium or heroin den if the opportunity presented itself, especially if a girl was involved. I used to drink a lot of alcohol, spent my time learning pick up lines, and looking for shortcuts to chase girls, I took diet pills, raced cars, bought things I didn't need.  I wrote about it all in my blog post "Who is the (Former) Johnny FD." 

One thing I don't know if I ever made clear though was why I did it all. I think people often look at stupid things people do and judge them without ever asking the why behind it. Often people don't care, aren't aware of it, or because they are so consumed in their own insecurities, unhappiness, and problems that it's easier for them just to point at others faults than it is to take the time to understand or have empathy.

 ut at the end of the day, it really doesn't matter. Everything from the past that we've done and had been done to us, both good and bad make us who we are today. If we can love ourselves and be happy for who we are now, and work towards being even better in the future, then it doesn't make sense to dwell in the past as much as we do, or really at all. The only people who will even bring up stupid things you said or did years ago are really looking and judging themselves in a mirror and not actually you. Unfortunately those people often get significance out of trauma bonding, playing the victim card or dwelling on why they can't move on. I can't help those people, so I've learned to just ignore them, as pandering to them doesn't help anyone, not them nor I, or the world.

I've learned not to respond to negative comments, especially the ones that are simply untrue, and just ignore or delete them usually they have more to say about the person writing it and their own fears, insecurities and unhappiness in life than they do what they are commenting on or about. This is the last time i'll even bring it up, as the past really is the past. It's time to  focus on the future, and finding happiness for both ourselves as well as others. If you want to find happiness in your present and future, this post is for you. If you'd rather focus on why you can' of luck, but reading further just anger you more. 

Things that I thought would make me happy/worthy.

Acceptance vs. Change

The biggest lesson I've learned, and what I live my life based upon is the following. Accept things that we cannot change, improve the things we can, and be wise enough to know the difference. This comes from the Serenity Prayer, and it really is the cornerstone to finding and achieving lifelong happiness for me and many others.

"Grant us the serenity to accept the things we cannot change, the courage to change the things we can, and the wisdom to know the difference."

For me things that I cannot change include my past, who my family is, how old I am, my Ethnicity, the color of my skin, etc. For you, it may be some of the same, with your own troubles, strife, or hardships. These are things that I could try to spend all of my mental energy trying to change, dwell on, complain about, or make excuses with. But no matter what I do, things probably won't change by much, so the best thing to do is just to accept it, for both it's pros and cons. This is where I could start talking about the rejection I've experienced because of my Ethnicity, the Racism I've encountered, or the host of other things that have hurt or scarred me in the past, but none of that matters anymore as that's in the past and cannot be changed. 

However, there are many things that are in my control today and in the future. A big one is taking 100% personal responsibility for everything that happens and has happened in my life, both the good and the bad. This one is hard to understand and can be triggering, as some could read it as,

"how is it my fault if I get hit by some random drunk driver, or robbed, assaulted, etc" 

I took me many years to figure this out, but taking personal responsibility isn't, "if you left the house 5 minutes earlier it wouldn't have happened," rather, "it sucks that it happened, and even if it wasn't your fault and there's nothing you could have done to have prevented it, we still have the choice today on how we dwell or look back on it, as well as how it shapes our future."

Life isn't always fair, and some people go through worse things than others. But dwelling on it, trauma bonding, and empathy seeking doesn't help anyone. The only thing that does help is accepting that it happened, being grateful for what we have today, and for the future. A simple example, that is that even though I wish I was a little taller, I never dwell on my height as that's something that can't be changed anyways. I also remind myself that being 5'10/178cm is taller than being  5'4 or 162cm, and the guy who is 5'4 can do the same and be grateful that he isn't 4'10 (147cm)

Our Decisions Make Us

Part of taking personal responsibility includes planning for the future, as well as the sacrifices we have made to get us where we are today. We've all heard the phrase "money doesn't buy happiness" and even though I know it is true, what money does buy is security and choices. By having 12 months of savings in the bank, it often completely eliminates financial stress, even during hard times. Being able to afford living in the city center eliminates the stress of commuting to and from work. Having the money to buy a brand new 7 series BMW doesn't actually add to happiness, but being able to buy a brand new Toyota with a dealer warranty, and having the leftover $40,000 in a savings account for emergencies definitely eliminates a lot of the stress and worry a lot of people have.

Earning money or saving is it also a choice. It's harder for some than others, but everyday we have a choice. We had it as children to pay attention in class or not, to study and learn the tough subjects like Math or Science or to have done something fun and easy instead. I didn't take these choices, but I accept that I wasted years of my life not going to college for a STEM degree (Science, Technology, Engineering, or Math) and instead wasted 4 years and $75,000 getting a useless B.A. in Social Science instead. I wish I could go back and learn a useful skill or have gotten a degree in an in demand field that companies are actually hiring for, but I didn't, and I've accepted that. Instead, I've learned on my own, took online courses, read books, learned how to create websites, edit photos and videos, and earned a living online.

Also instead of spending all of my money I earned on conveniences, luxuries and nice to haves, even though I was able to afford it, I would often skip the taxi ride and take the cheaper bus option, order or bring my own water to restaurants instead of paying for drinks,limit my intake of smoothie bowls, avo toast, and other more expensive items on the menu and order local food instead. I'd stay in cheaper accommodations, spend more time in cheaper countries, cut my own hair, go to a local barber shop. I'd wear shoes until there was a hole in them and the same clothes for years until they wore out. These all seem like trivial things that I'm sacrificing, but knowing that i'm saving and investing that money for the future, and for financial security and independence has been well worth the effort. Even though it would often be nice to have more things, and spend money on stuff, I know that at the end of the day, Less really is More in terms of happiness.

My Choices Pay Off (Sometimes)

I have also accepted that my choices don't always pay off. I know there's a chance I'll get hit by a bus tomorrow and all the hard earned money I've saved and didn't spend would have been for nothing. Even choosing to stay here in Sri Lanka during the COVID pandemic instead of taking an emergency flight back to the USA was a gamble. I knew that going home would be the "safe" option, as many people have done. But I also knew that it wasn't the prudent thing to do. The gamble happened to have paid off and I've had a really good, productive and overall happy quarantine, but I also would have accepted my choice if things didn't go well. In a strange way, that acceptance has found me peace and happiness, verses always questioning my decisions and looking for what would have been the better choice.

Other little choices that have helped me find peace and happiness have included putting my phone in airplane phone at night, and not turning it back on until after I've gotten ready in the morning, had some time to myself and went for a walk, or even a surf. Simplifying by choosing to delay turning on my phone for an hour or two in the morning has significantly increased my happiness in life.  I have also accepted that I might miss out on a few things, but that's okay, as the trade off has been worth it. 

I could continue this post forever, and may update it later with more, but for now I wanted just to share these thoughts with all of you now. It took me a long time, but I've finally accepted my strengths, weaknesses, pros and cons, and that I'm not perfect, nor will I ever be. There will always be someone more good looking, rich, wealthy, smart, tall, in better shape, older, younger, more experienced, better at surfing, jiu-jitsu, business, everything. And i'm okay with that. Instead of getting angry at these people I either take it as inspiration, try to learn from them, or just simply accept it and do my best to move on and better myself. The choice isn't to completely give up and say this is the cards I was dealt and there's nothing I can do about it so YOU should accept me for the way I am, as life doesn't work that way. You can't force others to accept you. But we can accept and love ourselves for who we are today, while working towards being even better tomorrow, and in the future.

Final Thoughts

I'm very different than I was in 2017, and my needs have changed. I'm even more different than who I  was in 2007 or 2010, both in good as well as not so good ways. I'm older, hopefully wiser, but with that has come the pros and cons along with it. But what makes me happy today is figuring out who I am, what makes me happy, avoiding what doesn't, building a buffer for harm not to come my way, or at least being able to deal with if it does. 

That has freed me up to both be happy today, love and accept myself now, but also work on improving myself each and everyday. Everyday I'm saving a bit more money adding to my financial future, everyday I'm working out, getting in better and better shape, everyday I'm learning something, whether it's improving my surfing, handstands, languages, or something else that's beneficial. That's all that we can ask of ourselves and honestly, that's enough. 

I've accepted the things I cannot change, have been constantly working on improving the things that I can, and now know the difference between the two. I sincerely hope this post helps each and everyone one of you reading this. If you want to dive even deeper on how I figured al of this out over the 10 year journey, read my book Life Changes Quick which is available on Amazon and Kindle.  I geninely wish all of you all of the happiness in the world, and for all of us to be the best versions of ourselves and who we have the potential to be. 

With Love,

Johnny FD

Leave a comment below, I'd love to hear from you! 

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  1. What is happiness to you? Leave a comment here, I'd love to hear from you.

    1. Nice Johnny. Great philosophy. No regrets, live your life, be happy. PS. Your surfing is going well from what I've seen�� but if I may be so bold, brush up your volley skills eh������
      Happiness is whatever you make it to be.

  2. Nicely written, Johnny. I enjoy reading these posts of yours, and I agree with you on your life philosophy. Keep up the great work to inspire others! :)

    1. Thanks so much Lydia! It's been great having you as a friend and seeing you grow and be happy as well!

  3. Thanks for sharing Johnny, appreciate the honesty. I can relate to some of your sentiments, and I agree that you need to take 100% ownership for your life. I think you'd have been unhappy if you'd taken a different degree and a corporate job - it sends you down a path that's almost impossible to escape from. A wife, house, mortgage, and a 20 year career will lead to a sunk cost fallacy situation that’s impossible to escape. Couple that with an 8-7pm job that leaves you exhausted and no time for a side hustle to escape the grind - it could be very different for you!!!

    1. I agree totally with this. Sometimes I think how much I would need to get paid to take a job back in the US, and honestly it'd have to be something insanely high, and even then I wouldn't enjoy it as much as life now.

  4. I'm glad you found happiness Johnny. I found happiness this weekend when my girlfriend of nearly a year said yes to my marriage proposal! We'll see if I'm still happy in a few years but my instinct tells me I will be.

    1. Nice, congrats Terry. I hope your new married life is full of even more happiness for you. =)

  5. Really powerful and honest Johnny. Thanks for sharing.

  6. Hi Johnny,

    Well said and inspirational post with the simple and cool facts. I believe that this post will be beneficial to all and this includes me.


  7. Johnny, i am a fairly new fan of yours. I started following more seriously last fall. I first read an article from you when i was researching DWD that i attended last May (2019) in Australia and fully discovered you back in the fall (2019) when i started to explore a digital nomad life. I have been a regular reader of yours. Given i am also a bit older (early 40's), i so relate with everything you write about - especially when it comes to life, lessons, wisdom. Thank you for showing vulnerability, authenticity and being fully open - I am grateful and i am always looking forward to read you.

    1. Thanks Marc! I hope you enjoyed Tony Robbin's DWD event. It really helped me understand things a lot, especially on why we and others do things, and how it's often in search for significance or certainty.

  8. MAN!! I'm moved by your post and your story. I've been following you since 2017 when I came across the TLAB podcast while being bored at work.

    Now in a better job, I am still thinking of building my own business and earn my freedom. This lockdown got me back on that quest.

    On taking responsibility: I learned similar lessons in the book "Feel The Fear and Do it Anyway" by Susan Jeffers.

    On improving and getting wiser, I would conclude with this quote from Adam Grant: "If you don’t look back at yourself and think, “Wow, how stupid I was a year ago,” then you must not have learned much in the last year."

    Be happy my friend, you earned it. Respect.

    1. Thanks for following for so many years. Great quotes by the way! Thanks for sharing them!

  9. Johnny I have been following you for sometime (after we shook hands one day in a Chiang Mai co-working space a few years back) …and sincerely appreciate what you give to me (and the world).

    I am an old fart (old enough to be your Dad) and also a Granddad to three beautiful young beings (OK so I am biased lol). And guess what…you inspire me young man!

    I am on the ‘downward slope’ now so to speak, and so I am always thinking myself to sleep with ‘what does this final piece of my life journey look like’? What will my legacy be?

    Anyway, I am now, thanks in no small to your incredible help, in the middle of setting up the ‘Final Me’ and becoming the digital nomad with financial and location independence.

    So I sincerely hope to meet again one day and have a catch up chat!

    Take care Johnny…and keep up the kind work (please!).


    1. Hey Pete, sounds like you lived a good life so far, and there's no reason why you can't live the rest of it with a smile on your face. =)

  10. Interesting article, thank you!) I'll try to switch off phone in the morning too) that will be my experiment)

  11. Thanks for sharing Johnny! Loved reading it, glad you learnt self acceptance which is so damn key as I realize it too and find peace and happiness in the little things.

    The little things really do matter!


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