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The world's longest suicide note: ONE MILLION words.

I write about life with bipolar disorder (a.k.a. manic depression).

All opinions are my own.

twitter.com/ManicGrant

nick@manicgrant.com

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Normal Service Has Resumed

7 min read

This is a story about a journey all the way to the bottom and back up...

The Ritz

The year was 2011. I fought with my girlfriend about relocating my startup. The year was 2012. Depression and destruction. The year was 2013. Divorce and drugs. The year was 2014. Suicide attempts and homelessness. The year was 2015. Getting better, but still very severely mentally unwell; quite insane. The year was 2016. Substantially recovered, but not quite; false start. The year was 2017. The worst of all the years.

During the last 7 years, a lot of the cohort from the startup accelerator program I attended in Cambridge, have all gone on to be spectacularly successful both in business and in their personal lives. They've strengthened their relationships, had children, bought houses, yachts and sportscars. They've become much in-demand conference speakers and widely respected captains of industry, with amazing reputations.

I went down.

I went down hard.

I went all the way to the bottom.

I had enjoyed a lot of the material success and achieved a bunch of life goals much earlier than most of my peers, but it didn't take long to undo all that hard work. It doesn't take much effort to give up all the gains you've made. It's a lot easier going downhill, than clawing your way back uphill.

I guess a kind of rock-bottom moment was when I arranged to have high tea at The Ritz with one of my best buddies from the startup accelerator. I stood him up because I was in big trouble. Mental illness, addiction, alcoholism, homelessness, debt, divorce, loss of assets, loss of my startup, loss of all hope conspired to rob me of all my self-esteem. My buddy is not the kind of person who'd make me feel like a failure or invoke any kind of shame and embarrassment in me, but I couldn't let him see me in the state I was in. I was a complete mess. I couldn't even be seen in public.

I slept rough, I lived in a hostel, I went into heaps of debt just staying alive. I wrecked my body and mind with prescription drugs, legal highs, illegal drugs, alcohol, black-market medications and a ludicrously high-risk lifestyle, which had been so punishing that it had hospitalised me multiple times for multiple weeks.

I managed to meet up with my buddy once, just as I was going through divorce in 2013, before things got really bad, but they were still pretty terrible. I saw him again in 2015, when I was having extreme mania and generally suffering with terrible mental health problems brought on by stress, pressure, exhaustion and sleep deprivation. I stood him up in 2016.

Somehow I managed to see my buddy in 2017, when he was celebrating the culmination of 6 years hard work on his startup, at exactly the same time as my life was well and truly beyond any hope of saving; my entire world was imploding. My dream of rebuilding my old life in London completely collapsed and I had nothing but debt and the threat of imminent eviction, which at least forced me to temporarily act with a little bit of self-preservation instinct, but I soon ended up in such a dire situation that I decided my life was over; I tried to kill myself. In summer 2017, the directions the lives of my buddy and I could not have gone in more opposite directions. I had failed. I was a miserable failure.

This year, what had been originally been planned as a holiday with my girlfriend turned into a bromance weekend with my buddy. Things were looking up. I'd been working for almost 7 consecutive months without a major disaster. My life was still pretty wrecked, but at least it was improving. I was in a bad state after a messed-up May, where I'd had a relapse, but thankfully it didn't ruin everything.

I had a bit of a lapse a little over a week ago. The instability which ensued prompted me to spend money. Some of that money got spent on a weekend visit to see my buddy again. Things have continued to substantially improve, although my life is still pretty wrecked, by all reasonable measures. Annoyingly, my buddy has seen me right in the middle of a period of bad mental health, immediately following a relapse. Annoyingly, I'm not seeing my friends when I'm at my best, but instead they're seeing me when I'm destabilised and a bit sick; exhausted and stressed.

It should be noted, however, that there is a significant difference between today and the time I decided to jump off the Golden Gate Bridge. Today is much more like the optimistic period I had in 2013 where it looked like I was going to get out of a bad relationship and start rebuilding my life. Today is not at all like 2017, which was a total train-wreck; I was a complete mess.

I feel like I must have trashed my brain. I feel like I must have fried my mind. I feel like my mental health is utterly wrecked and people are probably just humouring me, like I was ever one of their peers.

I would love it if I've gotten back to enough of a healthy state that I'm doing OK. I would love it if I'm somewhat getting back to normal, and not too much lasting damage has been done.

I know it's no use wanting to go back in time; wanting to get back to exactly how I was at some point in the past. That's impossible.

My biggest fear is that I'm some sort of washed-up loser; that I'll never recover any quality of life; that I'm irreparably damaged and any spark of brilliance which justified my presence amongst that cohort of 2011, has long since been extinguished. I fear I'm a has-been.

My brain feels sluggish and slow. I feel somehow inferior. Not just to the brilliant people I met in Cambridge, but somehow to almost everybody. I've spectacularly completely and utterly failed at life.

I'm about to board a flight back to the UK. I have a good job and my cashflow is OK. I have a holiday planned. I have a place to live and other life essentials. Things are not that bad but I'm aware that I've barely begun my journey back up from the bottom. It's worse than starting with nothing. What I'm talking about is starting deep in negative territory.

It's ridiculous and unhelpful to compare myself to the man I was in 2011 and imagine what might have been. I am where I am. I should be pleased I'm not destitute; dead.

I should be dead.

But I'm not.

My life has entered a very surreal phase now. I'm living a life which should lead towards health, wealth and happiness. I'm moving very fast in a positive direction, but the journey I've been on has been very extreme in every conceivable way.

Things are seemingly normal, but also not normal at all. Nothing ever was normal in my life. Nothing ever will be. I suppose at least things are abnormal in the right kind of way now, at the moment.

It's hard re-adjusting to the new [old] normal.

 

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A Streak of Arrogance

7 min read

This is a story about hypomania warning signs...

Cambridge Union Society

If I was pressed to justify why I have any self-confidence and why I think I add any value to humanity - anything useful or interesting to say - then I could reference a number of achievements which I'm very proud of, indicating that I'm not completely delusional and grandiose. My sense of self-importance and pomposity is not entirely driven by perturbations of my sick mind. There are a few little things which mean I shouldn't think of myself as a complete waste-of-space, I hope.

Of course there are plenty of people in the world who will shout and scream: "YOU'RE A SHITTY WORTHLESS WASTE OF SPACE WHO SHOULD SHUT UP AND MAKE ROOM FOR ME ME ME AND ONLY ME. GET THE FUCK OFF THE STAGE YOU TALENTLESS FUCKWIT AND LISTEN TO ME ME ME. SHUT YOUR MOUTH AND LISTEN TO THE IMPORTANT STUFF I'VE GOT TO SAY BECAUSE IT'S ALL ABOUT ME ME ME".

I've had to endure plenty of these sharp-elbowed puffed-up pompous idiots, in love with their own reflections; quite convinced that they're brilliant people. I'm not exactly the shy and retiring humble type, but there's got to be some kind of middle ground unless you're happy flipping burgers in a minimum wage McJob and otherwise being trampled by precocious little shits; being shouted down by fucking airheads and their entourage of sycophants who believe the world owes them a stage and an audience.

...and breathe...

I realise that an arrogant streak within me rears its ugly head whenever I'm stressed and exhausted; whenever I'm scared and insecure.

I'm feeling very scared and insecure at the moment.

I know that I'm good at my job and I make a big difference to the teams and organisations that I'm part of, but I can see that a nasty side of my personality emerges when I'm under extreme pressure and stress. I can start to believe my own bullshit and see those around me as dead wood. I can start to become irritable and impatient. I can start to treat people unpleasantly. I become horribly arrogant.

It's a reaction to circumstances.

I'm not comfortable. I'm not secure. I'm not happy.

I'm exhausted.

I'm tired.

I'm scared.

At work, I know that I've proven myself yet again. I know that I've gotten to grips with a huge complicated system and a gigantic organisation in record time, and I'm making myself useful. I'm highly productive. I feel needed and I feel like I'm delivering good value. That feeds my fragile ego. My ego is incredibly battered and bruised because of the rollercoaster ride I've been on during the last few years, and because I don't feel at all secure.

I can point to things from the past which hint at my potential and clearly indicate that I'm not an idiot or a nobody, but how far back do I have to go? The picture above of me doing a Dragon's Den style pitch at Cambridge Union Society is about 7 years old. It feels like my life has been a complete mess since then. I feel like a fraud. I feel like a washed-up has-been.

For all my achievements, I've also repeatedly had problems with hypomania, where I've become impatient and irritable and I've spoken to people really badly. My arrogance has raged out of control at times. There's no justifying that behaviour.

I'm acutely aware that I wrote a very boastful blog post yesterday, and that I'm starting to become quite irritable by the amateurish stuff I have to deal with in my day job. I have to try very hard to avoid being harshly critical of my colleagues' work, which is perfectly mediocre and acceptable in the humdrum corporate world. I have to frequently remind myself that although I'm right it doesn't matter; although I could build a much superior system and do things so much better, I'm just one team member on a big project in a huge organisation. I need to recognise that I'm prone to the cyclical pattern of being smashed to smithereens and ending up destitute, only to get back on my feet and able to become high productive again with unbelievable speed. I need to stop being so dazzled by my own remarkable ability to pull myself up by my own bootstraps, because it's horribly arrogant.

There's a mountain of evidence that proves I can achieve exceptional things, but there's also a mountain of evidence that shows that I can become a right pain in the ass and I can be thoroughly unpleasant to deal with, when I'm consumed by hypomania. I need to remember that it'll be beneficial for me and everybody who I work with if I can rein in my arrogance, keep my lip buttoned, be kind, be patient and be as humble as I can possibly be.

It doesn't help that two people who I very much admired and respected have left my team, leaving me as the de-facto top dog, but I work with smart people and I need to work as part of a team or else I'll burn out. I need to get into the habit of learning to be more tolerant of the mistakes which people have made and the "varying abilities" in a diverse team, which is diplomatic double-speak for learning to put up with dullards. It's an essential skill in the workplace I think, to accept that there are more people who are undoing your good work and generally thwarting your ambitions to build utopian perfection, and to recognise that there are a huge amount of advantages of being a member of a big team of people who really don't care too much about the gigantic heap of useless crap they're very handsomely rewarded for fucking up. Striving for perfection has really messed me up very badly in the past.

So, I need an attitude adjustment. I need to acknowledge that when I've been given carte blanche - a clean slate - I've been lazy and sloppy and cut corners. I need to recognise that even though I have single-handedly built great big complex systems and profitable businesses from nothing, it's always fucked me up and burnt me out. On balance, it's the same net result - the tortoise and the hare.

I want to work really hard. I want hard work to accelerate me forwards. I want there to be a direct relationship between how hard I work and how much money I earn, but there isn't. No matter how brilliant and ingenious I am, I'm basically paid for being bored and keeping my mouth shut. The more dumb and numb I am, the more I get paid and the more people love me at work.

It's a really tricky time, because my mood viciously see-saws between suicidal depression, extreme boredom, insecurity about my value as a human being and a mountain of evidence that I'm very capable and competent at pulling off death-defying stunts and overcoming very difficult challenges, which clearly hints at a kind of troubled brilliance... although I'm not wanting to pat myself on the back too much or otherwise pump up my already excessively over-inflated ego.

If I'm going to make it through the coming weeks and months without disaster, I need to remind myself of past mistakes and attempt to curtail my arrogance; I need to recognise the cyclical pattern of my mental health and remember that it's always disastrous when I start getting impatient, intolerant, irritable and generally full of myself.

I need to keep my arrogance in check.

 

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Nick Grant

6 min read

This is a story about secret identities and alter egos...

Nick Grant's glasses

I'm Nick Grant and these are my glasses, which are my cunning and infallible disguise to protect my real identity. It would be a disaster if anybody found out my real name - Nick Grant - because this blog is pretty unflinchingly honest and contains a lot of very unflattering things about me. I'm pretty damn exposed, hence why I wear my disguise.

Today I'm celebrating 3 years of blogging. I've been writing every day for 3 whole years, with only a few gaps due to sickness and near-catastrophic events in my personal life, which have threatened to see me bankrupt, evicted, homeless, penniless and destitute. To have kept writing regularly throughout all the ups and downs of the past 3 years is a huge achievement.

To date, I've written and published 1,013,091 words in that 3-year period.

The last 36 months could be summarised thus:

  • September 2015: working for HSBC, living in a hotel, dating a BBC journalist. Rent an apartment on the River Thames.
  • October 2015: working for HSBC. Suicidally depressed. Hospitalised. Fly to San Francisco.
  • November 2015: fly back to the UK and deliberately get sacked from HSBC. Dating a PA to one of the directors of a major investment bank. Meet my guardian angel.
  • December 2015: protesting against bombing Syria. Sober for 100 consecutive days. Relapse back into abuse of legal stimulants and benzodiazepines.
  • January 2016: self harm and drug abuse. Start drinking again. Destroy my bed.
  • February 2016: abuse of sleeping pills and tranquillisers
  • March 2016: poly-drug abuse, combining legal highs and medications
  • April 2016: holiday to Southend with my guardian angel. Start dating again
  • May 2016: working for undisclosed major multinational organisation, with 660,000 employees worldwide. Replace destroyed bed.
  • June 2016: working. Suicidal. Bored.
  • July 2016: holiday to Fuerteventura for my birthday with my guardian angel.
  • August 2016: working. Suicidal. Bored.
  • September 2016: project cancelled. Meet love of my life. Minor relapse. Lies. Antidepressants and tranquillisers.
  • October 2016: in love. Mini-break to the New Forest. Weaning myself off tranquillisers.
  • November 2016: in love. Drinking a lot. Writing my first novel.
  • December 2016. in love. Christmas with her family. Eating and drinking a lot.
  • January 2017: DVT and kidney failure. Hospital and dialysis. Working for Lloyds Banking Group. Neuropathic pain from nerve damage. Taking tramadol, codeine, dihydrocodeine and pregabalin for the pain. Abusing large amounts of Valium and Xanax. Lose contract
  • February 2017: fully-blown supercrack relapse. Completely addicted to prescription opiates.
  • March 2017: supercrack. Abusing sleeping pills and tranquillisers. Quitting prescription opiate painkillers. Drinking. Still in love.
  • April 2017: supercrack. Still in love.
  • May 2017: attempting to quit supercrack by staying at girlfriend's and taking dextroamphetamine. Not succeeding
  • June 2017: drug and insomnia-induced mania, paranoia and general insanity. Break up with love of my life. Regret
  • July 2017: run out of money. Get a job in Manchester. Put all my stuff into storage. Leave London. Fling with girl from work.
  • August 2017: working for a startup in Manchester. Dating a different girl. Still physically addicted to painkillers, tranquillisers and sleeping pills.
  • September 2017: breakup. Suicide attempt. Hospitalised. Sectioned. Locked up on psych ward.
  • October 2017: move to Wales.
  • November 2017: writing my second novel.
  • December 2017: working for undisclosed bank in Warsaw and London.
  • January 2018: working for same undisclosed bank in London. Dating a Welsh girl
  • February 2018: bank. London. Girl.
  • March 2018: working for undisclosed government organisation. Rent an apartment in Wales.
  • April 2018: successfully quit all drugs and medications. Job, girlfriend and apartment all in Wales and very close.
  • May 2018: relapse. Breakup.
  • June 2018: government project finished. Mini-break to Faro, Portugal to see old friend.
  • July 2018: working for another undisclosed government organisation. Living in a hotel.
  • August 2018: government. Hotel. Single. Depressed.
  • September 2018: still working for same government organisation. Dating again.

By my calculations, 27 out of 36 months have been relatively OK, but 9 months in the past 3 years I've been a complete and utter train-wreck. The damage that's been done in that quarter of the year where I've been struggling with addiction, has been enough to completely screw up my life the rest of the time, but not quite bad enough to lead to me becoming unemployable, bankrupt and homeless - I always find a way to bounce back.

Somehow I've managed to fit 5 serious girlfriends and 5 major IT projects into the madness of my day-to-day existence, as well as 3 hospitalisations for major medical emergencies, being sectioned, two psych wards, an arrest, two evictions, moving 5 times, 6 cities, 5 countries, 13 powerful prescription medications, 5 street drugs, 121 consecutive days sober, 56 consecutive days sober, 799 blog posts, 1 million words, 14 thousand Twitter followers and a couple of hundred thousand pounds... and all I've got to show for it is this poxy blog.

The story of Nick Grant and his ups and downs might be a bit repetitive, but I'm sure it's not boring. I would argue that it's pretty remarkable that I'm still alive and kicking, and able to string a sentence together. It's remarkable that I'm reasonably mentally stable and I'm working full time on quite an important project. It's remarkable that my colleagues don't suspect a thing. It's remarkable that I haven't made myself unemployable or otherwise ended up excluded from mainstream society. It's remarkable that I'm unmedicated and yet quite functional and productive.

Along the way, I managed to lose my original pair of glasses, but I had a new identical pair delivered today, which I'm wearing now. I had no idea when my replacement glasses would be delivered, because they were being hand made to order, so I find it deliciously wonderful that they were delivered on the day I'm celebrating the 3-year anniversary of starting this blog.

When I think back to my very first blog post 3 years ago - Platform 9.75 - it's amazing to reflect on the journey I've been on and marvel at how effectively my daily writing habit has functioned as a stabilising influence. I very much doubt I'd have been able to recover and continue my journey without the huge amount of help and support it's brought me. I feel really proud of what I've achieved, which gives me some all-important self-esteem in the times when I need it most. I'm sure I'd have killed myself long ago if it wasn't for the people who've engaged with me and what I write, and encouraged me to keep going. I feel loved and cared for even during some very dark and dismal days.

Obviously what I've written is not particularly palatable or compatible with dating and my professional life, but they'll never be able to find me - Nick Grant - because I've been so careful to disguise my identity and make sure that nobody could just Google me and find out all my closely guarded secrets. Nobody will ever be able to make the connection.

My next objective is to get through September 9th - the anniversary of my most serious suicide attempt - without incident. I plan on phoning a couple of the people who managed to get the emergency services to rescue me in the nick of time, to thank them for saving my life.

 

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Trashing Tech

3 min read

This is a story about sabotage...

Macbook damage

This is my laptop I have with me while visiting my friend. It's had that damage since 2010. My nice new laptop is away being repaired.

My Apple watch screen is half-covered with a big black blob. It's pretty much useless now, so I don't even wear it anymore.

I bought a Macbook Air, which got damaged, and I'd spent so much getting it repaired that when it got damaged again, I just sold it for spares and bought my new laptop - the one that's currently being repaired.

What is it about me and damaging expensive technology?

Well, it's not just hardware. I pretty much threw away an entire tech startup company. My friend and co-founder managed to repair it and keep it profitable, but I had pretty much managed to destroy that company.

It's strange. I'm away on a short weekend vacation with my old friend who, 7 years ago, I used to share a house with. We were both doing tech startup companies. We were meeting the same mentors, angel investors and venture capitalists. We were being interviewed by the same journalists. We were with each other 24x7 for a pretty damn intense and important period of our entrepreneurial tech careers.

I don't feel embarassed that I screwed up my startup. I'm pleased that my friend's succeeded.

What I feel embarrassed about is that one of my arms has scars running along its length, and a big scar that I would usually cover up with my Apple Watch. What I feel embarrassed about is that I'm using my old laptop from all those years ago, and the reason is pretty much the same as why I have all those scars and my Apple Watch is irreparably damaged. I'm a damaged person, and I've damaged so much stuff during the on/off period I've been sick, which has been most of the last 7 years.

It's geek status symbol stuff, to have the latest Macbook Pro, Apple Watch and iPhone X, and I'm the guy who threw away his valuable tech startup, so I guess it'd be foolish for me to pretend like I'm something I'm not - to waste valuable cash on status symbols which I can't really afford.

The tough thing though is, I had/have those latest gadgets, but I trashed them in one way or another, and it's the story of how they got trashed that's the difficult thing. I want to be the happy, healthy, energy-filled and motivated guy who I was 7 years ago, but I'm not. I'm this broken damaged guy, with his broken damaged old stuff.

I guess I should just be grateful I'm alive.

 

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What's Missing from this Picture?

4 min read

This is a story about unnecessary packaging...

Holiday essentials

I've had a stressful morning. I had to package my Macbook carefully so that it could be safely sent away to be repaired. I had to locate the original packaging for my Virgin broadband router and box it up so it could be sent back to them, even though it's defective junk. I then had to find a UPS parcel drop-off point and a Collect+ drop off point to drop off the respective parcels. This required a trip to purchase bubble wrap, a suitable sized box and packing tape, as well as two more trips to two different drop-off places.

While I was out dealing with those chores, I also had to purchase a piece of carry-on luggage and some flip-flops. The flip flops were sold to me in a box. I don't know why flip flops need a box - just a simple cardboard clip to keep the left and the right flip-flop together is more than sufficient.

Anyway, I'm home now. I have located my passport. I have located some leftover Euros I had from the last holiday I took... 22 months ago. I opened the box containing my new flip-flops and lo and behold, there was a discrepancy in the number of flip flops present in the box - 50% of the required number of flip-flops were missing.

Do I drive back into town, park my car, walk to the shop and explain the situation in the hope that they admit their mistake and remedy it without quibble? Do I just purchase a second pair of flip-flops and then open and check inside the box before i leave the store? Do I just abandon the whole ill-fated exercise, and buy a pair at the tiny departure airport, where the shops will probably be closed? Do I take time out from the one single whole day I get to spend with my friend, without either of us having to worry about airport arrivals/departures, hotel check ins/out and all the rest of that crap, just to go looking for some suitable summer footwear?

I don't know why this is making me upset, because I don't even know if the nerve damage to my left foot/ankle is so bad that I can even wear a flip-flop on that foot. The last time I tried, I didn't have enough sensation and motor control to keep a flip-flop on my foot.

Also, my flight's delayed - French air traffic controllers on strike or something. My flight barely enters French airspace, but whatever... everyone should have the right to go on strike for better pay and conditions.

My 'holiday' is really just a day spent with a friend who I hardly ever get to see, then we both fly home on Monday. I have another week to go before my current gig comes to an end, so I need to make sure I take the money while it's there on offer.

"Have you got any holidays planned?" asked a person I spoke to on Friday, which is code for "we want you to work solidly until you drop dead". We'll have to see how badly they want me, because I really need a holiday - a proper holiday.

It seems churlish to complain, but I've had a month of hell. Breakup, losing my local job, getting sick, holiday plans pretty much cancelled, the stress of finding a new gig, the prospect of going back to London, the never-ending pressure to generate vast sums of cash to dig myself out of the hole... the hole I can never quite escape from. FML.

What was supposed to be a romantic beach holiday with my [ex]girlfriend has now turned into a very brief weekend meetup of two old friends. It'd have been far easier for us to meet in London, as he was there yesterday. He's travelled London -> Prague -> Lisbon -> Faro -> Lisbon -> Prague, and I'm travelling Wales -> Bristol -> Faro -> Bristol -> Wales. Our carbon footprint is criminal.

Hopefully I'll be in a better mood when I wake up in Faro tomorrow and I can hang out with my old friend for the whole day, free from commitments and responsibilities... I can put up with sweaty feet.

 

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Where Did It All Go Wrong?

4 min read

This is a story about dead ends...

Sinclair A-bike

Sir Clive Sinclair is a very clever man. So also is Hermann Hauser. So is Dr. Robert Sansom. So are the fellow members of my cohort who were lucky enough to be chosen from a very great number of hopeful applicants for an opportunity to fraternise with Cambridge's tech elite. We were destined for greatness.

The pinnacle - the apogee - of an entrepreneurial career in tech would be the moment when you have the undivided attention of a packed auditorium with a total net worth of tens of billions of pounds. Even if only for 5 or 10 minutes, all eyes are on you. It's your 5 minutes of fame, insofar as any geek can ever expect to have in their lifetime.

With offensive dismissiveness, the egotistical front man who would claim credit for the meeting of these minds, said my co-founder "was last seen with twins around his ankles" (he actually has 3 young children) and that I had returned to my former career with my tail between my legs.

Whatever I do, I think I do it with dedication and I achieve results. I obsess over my goals and I work tirelessly to reach them.

However, I feel old, unwell and somewhat burnt-out; spent.

If intellect was a good predictor of wealth, we'd see a much stronger correlation between the top exam grades, first-class degrees, doctorates and those who have been lucky enough to earn their fortunes, such that they have the financial means to retire early. If you think that a high IQ and studying hard at school and university is going to help you get ahead in life, you're sadly mistaken: you'll be a wage-slave in the rat race, just like everybody else.

I thought momentarily that I had found a tolerable compromise: a way to enjoy the lifestyle of the trust-fund endowed sons and daughters who can rely on family wealth to bankroll their carefree existence, while only sacrificing a small amount of my time each week to rather boring, menial, unethical and demeaning labour. I struck a deal with the devil, as it were.

Realising, however, that I was cash rich and time poor, I started work on projects which far predated websites like taskrabbit.com and mybuilder.com. My dot com - getajobdone.com - might not have been a world-class brand, but this was soon enough after the dot com boom [and crash] that I can claim some bragging rights.

I was too young and inexperienced to profit from the dot com boom, but I was at the very forefront of the iPhone app craze.

But where did it all go wrong?

How did I end up back in my old career, as Jon Bradford so astutely [and offensively] observed?

Fuck you. That's why: fuck you.

I make simple plans which seem fairly achievable, like having a nice little apartment with sea views and a yacht in the marina. Simple plans like having a job where I can drive to work in less than 15 minutes and enjoy a 6-figure salary. Then, it all goes to shit, so fuck you. I have it, then I lose it. I get a taste of it, then it's snatched away.

Where did it go wrong? Fucking everywhere, that's where. Everywhere from breakups to losing jobs - through no fault of my own - to the fact that the world is just a crazy competitive dog-eat-dog awful cut-throat world.

I live a charmed existence, by all accounts, but you should never forget the sacrifices I've made. While the rest of you have been creating clones of yourselves and lining the pockets of the banks with your mortgage interest payments, I've been cut loose in a world which views a man with no family ties with suspicion. In fact, having no family ties and no local connection to anywhere puts me at risk of destitution; total abandonment - I'm one of society's unwanted members. No safety net exists for me.

In 25 hours I'm hoping to be reunited with an old friend whose path through life might see him [incorrectly] labeled as an "overnight success" story. What a world apart, the last 6 or 7 years of our lives have been. How could we ever reconcile the differences in our experiences? Him the millionaire and me the pauper.

To divine where it all went wrong is an impossible task.

All I know is that I'm exhausted and I've got nothing to show for my efforts.

I'm not bitter though, I think. I cherish my experiences, no matter how harrowing and traumatic they've been.

 

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Superstars and Comfortable Men

11 min read

This is a story about a life philosophy...

Maunu Kea

Here I am stood taking photographs at the summit of the highest mountain in the Hawaiian Islands - an altitude of 13,796 feet above sea level. Sea level is where I started that morning. Any mountain above 12,000 feet will affect susceptible people with dizziness, shortness of breath, weakness and could even present a life-threatening situation for somebody with pre-existing heart or breathing problems. So, dangerous, but not that dangerous. Nobody gets a pulmonary oedema up here, in this cold thin air, but very few can thrive in this oxygen-depleted environment.

There are ostensibly two ways to get up a mountain: you can walk, or you can use some kind of mechanised assistance (e.g. helicopter, cable car or even drive if somebody has made a road to the summit). I used to scoff at the idea of taking 'the easy way out'. I used to think that using cable cars and funicular railways in the Alps was cheating... you hadn't really conquered the mountain at all. However, after my first summer season in Chamonix valley, I realised there's no point nitpicking over a pile of rocks: most climbers who attempt the North face of The Eiger will use the railway to the summit, which stops halfway to let anybody out who wants to tackle its vertical wall of death. Tourists watch as men and women laden with ropes and other equipment, venture out of a hole that was made to clear the railway tunnel of snow. Are they less brave? Many have lost their lives attempting this 'easy' route up the mountain.

Summit marker

There you are, see. 13,796 feet. You can see this elevation post in the bottom left hand corner of the previous photo. But how did I get up there, more importantly?

In 2008 through to 2011, I was bootstrapping. That is to say, I was building profitable business(es) using my own money and with very little outside help. Then, I got out of my depth and I phoned a friend. I begged him to come on board with my latest venture, which promised to have the most growth potential of anything I'd done before, plus it had an overlap - in the education space - with some of my friend's expertise.

My friend told me he was a mentor on a technology accelerator program, affiliated to TechStars, which was based in Cambridge and was taking place that coming summer. I have to admit, I'd never heard of Y-Combinator, SeedCamp, 500-Startups, TechStars or any of the other myriad accelerators that were springing up. The idea was simple though: take a bunch of promising teams, incubate them and connect them with the best minds in the world of tech, have a demo day and help them to raise angel investment or venture capital (VC).

I was enthused and given a new direction. There was hope and relief that I might no longer suffer the isolation and loneliness of being 'the boss'. I really wanted to be part of this ecosystem.

I applied for TechStars Boulder, in Colorado, USA, as well as the TechStars affiliate program that my friend was going to be a mentor on, in Cambridge, UK. My company was shortlisted for Boulder, so I flew out to Denver, drove to Boulder and met with David Cohen - one of the co-founders of TechStars. My company just missed the cut for Boulder, but was offered a place on the Cambridge program, which I accepted. On demo day, Brad Feld - the other founder of TechStars - watched my pitch and I got to meet him. I was rubbing shoulders with people who had achieved, or were about to achieve, greatness.

For example: you know that robot that's in the new Star Wars movies? The one that's a ball that rolls around and makes bleeping noises a bit like R2-D2? BB-8, it's called. Anyway, the toy version of that is based on the Sphero, and Sphero were one of the teams to go through the TechStars program. I got to meet those guys in Boulder. Now they have one of the best selling children's toys, thanks to a Star Wars brand licensing deal, which was undoubtably in part due to the TechStars program... that's how it works.

BB-8

Once the TechStars program was done, I had two role models to choose between. Both had pregnant girlfriends, but they had very different aspirations and priorities.

David, co-founder of my business, was intent on making life comfortable for him and his family. He'd made a big sacrifice, living away from home while we were doing the accelerator program. He'd made a risky commitment, ploughing money into a company that - at that time - didn't really have any protectable intellectual property or reliable and significant income stream. Although I talked him into the idea of taking our company BIG and getting half a million pounds worth of investment to allow us to grow, I think he really wanted to take things a lot slower and more carefully, and more importantly, get back home to his pregnant girlfriend.

Jakub, who I had been sharing a house with for months along with his co-founder Jan, seemed to be fixated on Silicon Valley and being a BIG success. I hope he wouldn't be angry with me for spilling the beans that he really regretted coming to Cambridge, UK, when their company could easily have gotten onto one of the Silicon Valley based accelerators, which is where, ultimately, he wanted to end up. Jakub had been obsessed by the trials and tribulations of Apple Corporation, and was 100% a Mac man, not a PC. Whether or not he wanted/wants to follow in the footsteps of Steve Jobs... one only need to look at his professionally taken photograph for his online profile: holding his chin in just the same way as the man who resurrected the struggling Apple Corp, and built it to be the world's biggest company, by market capitalisation.

Schopenhauer thought that the best thing in life would be to not be born at all, and the second best thing was simply to keep suffering to a minimum. Nietzsche realised that without suffering, how can we really experience elation? If you take the helicopter to the top of the mountain, you don't get the same feeling of achievement and success as you do if you walk up there. Nietzsche said that the world needs people like Steve Jobs, who was a millionaire by the age of 23, in 1978, and was worth $19 billion at the time of his death. Nietsche talks about supermen (übermensch) and the last men. Nietsche reviled these "last men" as he called them: men who were comfortable and content with mediocrity; men who would look at the stars and blink, in his words, rather than strive to achieve the very maximum they could in life - becoming superstars themselves.

I'm now in an uncomfortable in-between place. I neither achieved the übermensch nor the life of comfortable mediocrity.

Did I give up, because I was overwhelmed by the enormity of the task that lay ahead? Did I simply make mistakes, in choosing business partners who weren't as ambitious as me; as gung-ho, committed and fearless? Was the lack of support I received from my now ex-wife, my undoing?

Or, am I - as Nietzsche feared - one of the last men. The ones who are prepared to slave along in miserable existence because I'm not brave enough; bold enough to reach for the stars; to follow in the footsteps of those who've reached the top.

I'm torn, because I believe in socialist & humanist values: I believe in wealth redistribution, state monopolies, free education, free healthcare, free housing and a whole host of other things that would see me labelled as "Marxist", "Stalinist", "Leninist", "Maoist" or some other -ist, meant in the pejorative. Sometimes, I do wonder if people would work as hard, if they didn't want big mansions, swimming pools, helicopters, private jets, superyachts and all the other trimmings of exorbitant wealth. However, I know enough successful people to know that they just wanted to see a dream realised; a goal achieved: they didn't know how to stop working so hard, and they couldn't if they tried.

Strangely, although I've been shown the way and my eyes have been opened to the possibility of achieving great wealth in my lifetime, I've been left with nothing but depression. I'm depressed because I can see that hard work is required in life, whichever path you choose, but I'm also depressed because I opened the Pandora's Box of yachts and supercars and other prized possessions of those who followed their difficult task to completion: they reached the summit of the mountain.

I used to play a psychological trick when climbing mountains, which is to imagine every summit that you see is a false one, and that behind it will be an even higher summit, so your anticipation of your reward never turns into disappointment, which could lead you to giving up and turning back.

Another psychological trick I played in life, was never to dream and aspire to own things that were well out of reach. I bought a house, a yacht, a speedboat and a fast car... but these were all modest items that I was able to save up my wages and purchase. I never dreamt of owning a mansion or a brand-new Ferrari, for example, although the latter was achievable if that was my one dream in life, which it wasn't. I played a psychological trick, of forcing myself to be modest with my aspirations and rein in my ambitions, and to make incremental improvements rather than shoot for the top prize.

Mountain track

Now, I take short-cuts. I cheat. I know how high I can get, but I don't want to make the effort again. It hurt too much to be on the express elevator to the top, and to start to dream about all the wonderful things I could do with that wealth, only to crash to earth and be devastated. I'd like to be comfortable, but even that hurts, because it still requires effort as well as denying that I'd really like to own a nice big yacht, a supercar and a big house.

Do I begrudge my friends their success? Of course not, but it doesn't inspire me. Maybe it does inspire others, but when I look around, most people are fighting to just hang onto what little they've got. Would I tax my friend heavily because I'm a failure and I want to grab a piece of the wealth he created? Would I expect him to be humble and give credit to the society that helped him get to the top, even though we shouldn't try to drag everybody down to an equal level - equally mediocre and comfortable, according to Nietzsche? Yes, in a way I do still stand by my politics: I prefer flat structures to pyramids. I like it when everyone gets rich because of co-operation in society, rather than just a tiny handful who get rich at the expense of everybody else. We must remember that we're playing a zero-sum game - for every billionaire, there are millions of starving mouths and people without clean drinking water.

My friend was 9 years old when communism ended in his home country. He has been deeply affected. I'm not sure what makes me so certain that wealth should be redistributed, and the vulnerable protected, but I'm certainly going to tip-toe around the subject when I see my friend Jakub tomorrow, which will be the first time I will have had to offer face-to-face congratulations on him reaching the summit: he's rich now, by most ordinary people's standards, but I will attest that he build that wealth, with his team: it wasn't gifted to him by inheritance; it wasn't stolen or conned; it wasn't embezzled. He earned it and he deserves congratulating.

I'm still torn up about that question though: is it better to have 7 billion contented, comfortable people, or 100 or so obscenely wealthy ones, and half the world in desperate poverty.

In fact, no, scratch that. I go for comfortable. I go for "the last men" even if Nietzsche so hated them. Fuck him, that pompous German twat.

 

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Rolling Stone: a Picture Story

11 min read

This is a story about quicksand...

Koa Tree Camp

After being discharged from psychiatric hospital, what do you think you'd do next? Well, imagine that for months you have been travelling but you haven't been moving.

Things are not stable for me, no matter what my senses tell me. I go to the same office, looking at the same computer screen, surrounded by the same people, for months if not years on end. According to my senses I'm not moving anywhere.

However, my bank balance would tell a very different story. Just sitting mute in a chair, keeping my head down and being a perfect corporate drone who never rocks the boat, means that I am very rapidly travelling... financially. My body and mind don't really agree though.

My moods tell a very different story again. I don't necessarily notice seasonal effects and depression taking hold. I'm not fully able to tell when I'm getting hyped up and excessively involved in work or other projects. I'm not great at judging when it's time to take a break, either because I'm too down or too up.

It is unhealthy and unnatural that I work in the same place, doing the same thing, and working a job that moves at snail's pace. I just don't have the social life and hobbies at the moment to get any balance, let alone the financial means to travel, socialise and pursue pastimes with the usual gusto that I apply to everything.

What happens is that I become like a champagne cork. The pressure builds and builds, and then I explode with frustration.

My journey began with a two week stay in a psychiatric hospital, because I was so beaten down by the task of getting myself off the streets, back from the brink of bankruptcy, beating addiction, working on a massively important high-pressure project, renting an apartment, moving house for the zillionth time, and then realising that I was in an unsustainable situation: I needed to get rid of a 'friend' who thought he'd live with me rent free and get pocket money: for what reason he thought he deserved that, I'm not even sure. I also needed to quit a horrible contract that just wasn't worth the sleepless nights.

Next thing I knew, I was sleeping in a Mongolian yurt in Devon.

Hitchikers

Then, I was surfing and hitch-hiking in Cornwall. Hitch-hiking is surprisingly hard, it turns out. Hitch-hiking is a bad way to get around if you have to be in a certain place at a certain time. I'd hitch-hiked once before, earlier in the year, in Ireland, but it turns out the Irish are a lot more friendly, helpful and trusting than the British, based on my anecdotal evidence.

Back in London after my Westcountry adventure, I still felt overwhelmed by depression and the feeling that I was trapped by my job. I had a lovely trip, but it had been very short and coming home was very anti-climactic. I knew I needed to quit my job, but I didn't quite have the guts to terminate a very lucrative contract.

I had made a plan a couple of months prior, to shame HSBC by sleeping rough in Canary Wharf, right by their headquarters. I found it deliciously ironic that they had inadvertently helped one of their customers to avoid bankruptcy, escape homelessness and generally improve their financial situation. I had no doubt that if they'd done their due diligence on me, then I would never have been employed to work on their number one project. I was planning on getting my contract terminated for no reason other than I cared about my job and was trying to do the right thing: acting with ethics and integrity.

But, I still had the contract like a millstone around my neck. I was desperately trapped and depressed about it.

I decided to fly to San Francisco and go to the Golden Gate Bridge. I wanted to illustrate how the desperation of my situation had driven me to contemplate suicide. I also wanted to go because I had planned to go 3 years earlier, but my parents had reneged on a promise and generally conspired to pull the rug out from under my feet at a time when I was terribly vulnerable. What they did was an awful thing, and I wanted to take that trip that I never got to make, because of their horrible behaviour.

I booked a flight for approximately 4 hours' time, packed a bag and left immediately. It's the most impulsive thing I've ever done in my life.

London Heathrow

In San Francisco, a friend kindly picked me up and I dumped my bags at her house. I then borrowed a bike and rode to the Golden Gate Bridge. Less than 24 hours had elapsed since deciding to travel 5,351 miles. I stood in a jetlagged and travel weary state, peering over the edge, looking at the perilous drop to the sea below.

Travel, novelty, adventure, excitement, old friends, social contact, good weather... all of these things are the perfect antidote to depression. Who knew that the prospect of being chained to the same damn desk, in the same damn office, doing the same damn work you've done for 19 years, could lead to a tiny twinge of "Fuck My Life".

Obviously, the whole dumping your bags at your friends' place and then going off and killing yourself thing would be poor social etiquette. Plus I'd arranged to see an old schoolfriend while I was in San Francisco. The potential for positive experiences was massive. In the office, I had found myself hoping for a fire drill just because it would be slightly novel.

Grant Avenue

I'm no dumbass. I know it's important to stop and smell the roses. But, there isn't the time, energy or motivation to do so when you're trapped in the rat race.

In San Francisco I took delight in the simplest of things, like taking a selfie of myself by a road sign that matches my surname. I didn't even do any specific sightseeing or look at a map. I took a trolleycar because I saw one passing. I found myself by landmark buildings, just because I stumbled on them. I walked miles and miles.

My AirBnB host invited me out to a Halloween party. I dressed up. We drove to some house near Mountain View, where there were fascinating Silicon Valley tech people to meet from Google and Apple. That kind of shit generally doesn't happen when you're depressed working your desk job.

I got a tattoo to piss my parents off. My sister has several tattoos and my parents are always giving her a hard time about them. I thought that getting a tattoo would be some gesture of solidarity with my sister, and my parents would have to give both of us a hard time for having one. It was also a kind of souvenir from the trip, and a bit of reminder that I was going to try and stay in the land of the living for a little longer.

I caught up with a schoolfriend who I hadn't seen for years and years. He was supposed to be a mentor on a startup accelerator that I did in 2011, but he'd had to move back to California. It was great to see him, in the Mission district of San Francisco, even if we only had the briefest of time to catch up. Precious moments.

Meeting my friends' second child, and hanging out at their house reading stories to their eldest. Going with the kids to the science museum and playing with the interactive exhibits. Still etched in my mind.

Getting a glimpse into family life, valley startup life, California life... special.

Hanging out with some of the people who I have so much respect and love for... priceless.

I tried to provoke HSBC into terminating my contract immediately, by sending truthful emails, saying things that needed to be said, but were blatantly above my pay grade. Sadly, the mark of a corporate drone is somebody who's completely gutless and two-faced. They emailed me to say they just wanted to have a "routine chat" with me when I got back. No matter how hard I pushed, they wouldn't admit that my contract was effectively terminated, which is what I wanted so I could stay in the USA longer.

Bournemouth Pier

I came home. I went into the office and exploited the fact that nobody would be straight with me. I kinda got my goodbyes from everybody, even though they were "great to see you back in the office" but only those who were nice genuine people seemed to be unaware that the long knives were drawn. I loved the look of shock on the faces of those whose incompetence I had exposed.

I shaved my stupid beard and kept my moustache, because it was now November. There's no greater pleasure than having your contract terminated from a 'straight' job, when you're wearing a stupid moustache and you have a tattoo. This was all part of the plan in preparation for the sleeping rough by HSBC headquarters anyway.

Then, I was deflated again.

It'd been a helluva journey. Psychiatric hospital, Devon, Cornwall, Mongolian yurts, surfing, hitch-hiking, sleeping on the floor of New York's JFK airport, cycling over the Golden Gate Bridge, sightseeing in Silicon Valley, old friends, nice work colleagues, miserable office drones, contract termination... relax!

Bonfire night - November 5th - I was still pretty hyped up. For some reason I decided that I wanted to whizz around London giving out brightly coloured cardboard stars. I think I spent 90 minutes from conceiving the idea, to then whizzing round London sticking stickers on stuff, giving out stars, losing my luggage and generally careering out of control somewhat. That was classic hypomania. What gets held down must go up. It was such a relief to be released from my soul-destroying contract that the nervous energy almost demanded to be released by doing something crazy.

I decided I needed to see some neglected UK friends. I zoomed down to Bournemouth and stayed in the Royal Bath Hotel by the pier. I met up with one of my most loyal friends, and met his son, caught up with him and his wife, saw their house. I caught up with another friend. Friends who had offered to take me kitesurfing didn't materialise, but it didn't matter... I'd already had a very action-packed trip.

Sleep Out

Then, finally, the night of the sleep out came. Lots of things got conflated in my mind: "Hacking" humanity, Techfugees, homelessness, bankruptcy, HSBC's unethical behaviour, soul-destroying bullshit jobs and the unbelievably erratic, exhausting, stressful path I had taken to reach that point.

I always knew that keeping moving is the answer to staying alive, but there's so much financial incentive to be trapped into a chair, chained to a desk, not moving anywhere, not doing anything, not talking to anybody.

As I burnt through my money on rent and bills over the winter months, I knew the day would come when I'd have to go back into the rat race, and it depressed the hell out of me. By Christmas Day I was in a pretty shitty state. By New Year's Eve I was cutting my arms with a razor blade.

For the last 4 months, I've sat at my desk, not saying anything. For the last 4 months, I haven't rocked the boat, I haven't tried to improve anything, I haven't tried to do a good job. For the last 4 months, I've kept a low profile. My bosses couldn't be more pleased. My bank balance is much improved. In theory, my mental health should have done something but it doesn't feel like my mood's done anything but sink.

How am I supposed to reconcile the drudgery of the rat race with the excitement of the crazy tale that led me here? When I look back 6 months, 12 months, 18 months, things were very different. Are things better? It doesn't feel like it.

I'm still not moving, I'm not travelling. I still don't have my needs met.

If I want to survive, I need to be moving. It's not sustainable for me to stagnate. I wasn't built to just sit and rot at a desk.

If I stop moving, I sink into the quicksand.

 

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It's a Hard Life Being Rich & Beautiful

7 min read

This is a story about being a whiny little rich kid...

Hawaiian Boy

"Daddy didn't love me enough" I cry, on the psychotherapist's couch. "I blew all the money my parents gave me on an unsuccessful business idea, and now I'm going to have to ask for some more" I wail. "Life is so unfair" I say, with a sour face.

In actual fact, I have never dared to dream. I've been offered a bunch of university places unconditionally, but I've never thought that it would be practical or realistic to spend time studying when it doesn't pay the bills. Of course, I would have loved to stay with my peer group, make new friends, fall in love, party & get drunk, have the joys of freshers week and also complain for the rest of my life about how stressful my finals were and how I stayed awake all night to finish my dissertation.

There are several career paths that are much more suited to my interests and my values than my chosen profession. However, how could I possibly pursue my dreams when life is sheer stressful misery without money? Where am I going to get money? Is it going to be gifted to me by my family? No way. Not a chance.

"Do what you love and money will follow" rich beautiful children are told by their doting parents. For the rest of us, it's just some pipe dream that will end up with us returning to the rat race somewhat humbled and with our life savings having disappeared into somebody else's pockets.

A fool and his money are soon parted, and there are so many people coughing up loads of cash to a lifestyle industry that promises to deliver the job of their dreams... for a price. Loads of people are spunking their hard-earned money from the rat race, on the dream of starting a little business where they can be their own boss and have a flexible lifestyle. Bullshit.

For those who are seriously rich, through their wealthy family and pure dumb luck, they are able to have multiple attempts at finding their dream job or founding a business that's self-sustaining enough to be able to pay a meagre wage. So many 'self-made' successful entrepreneurs do not bear close scrutiny. Upon detailed examination, it appears that most of the 'success stories' started with large interest free loans from their family. Success requires your risk to be underwritten. How can you take the risk of setting yourself up in business if failure is going to leave you destitute?

There's a joke in the startup community about the first round of investment being for "friends, family and fools". However, I'm not some rich kid dreamer. Every company that I've founded (I'm on number 4 now) has been profitable. I've never had a bankruptcy. For some spoiled little rich kids, having a bankruptcy is seen as a rite of passage. I think bankruptcy just shows a complete lack of entrepreneurial ability and a reckless attitude towards business that is detestable.

Of course I'd love it if I came from a wealthy family, and I felt that my risk was underwritten so that I could keep trying multiple business ideas until I found one that worked really well. My businesses are always grounded in the realm of profitability. I've built businesses that have needed very little investment. My businesses have always been cashflow positive. I don't have money behind me and failure has meant destitution.

I'm a bit pissed off that my parents got handouts to buy a house, start a business, and generally had their risk underwritten. Not only did they get a free university eduction, but they also fucked about doing whatever the fuck they wanted, and being reckless idiots, taking drugs and generally doing very little to take some fucking responsibility.

The thing that really pisses me off, is that they were then hypocritical enough to tell me to not dream. They told me that university was unaffordable because they'd spent all the family's money on cigarettes, booze and drugs. They told me that I would have to get the first job I could find, because they had no interest in supporting me and my sister in achieving our fullest possible potential. My parents' objective in life was to bumble along drunk and drugged up, working dead-end jobs that neither paid the bills nor provided them with a pension for the future. Dickheads.

So, if I paint this picture of myself as a rich playboy, it's all a bit of an act. Obviously, when things went wrong for me, I ended up homeless and destitute. Nobody was there for me. Nobody underwrote my risk. No assistance was forthcoming.

Everything I've built, and everything I've done, has come through my own resourcefulness and hard work. I've suffered in the bullshit jobs of the rat race in order to raise enough cash to pursue my dreams. When things haven't worked out, it's been me who's paid the price. Each time I try to escape the rat race, I do so in full knowledge that failure means homelessness and destitution again.

I live with stress and fear, and it's quite real. Nobody's going to take pity on me. Nobody has given me a hand out.

"Where is everybody? Where are the people who claim to care about you?" my flatmate asked once, when I had been into hospital and a couple of social workers were trying to help me out, because I am obviously so very alone. My flatmate was surprised that anybody who seems to be popular enough amongst their friends and successful at work, could find themselves so utterly alone. I guess that's what happens when your parents' priority in life is the getting and taking of drugs.

I was not surprised. I've spent weeks in hospital, with the only visitors being a handful of London friends. My family are as good as dead to me.

In fact, my family have been a hinderance not a help. Drunken and abusive phonecalls in the middle of the night, and being expected to travel hundreds of miles, spending hundreds of pounds on petrol and gifts... and for what? To be abused? To be left to die on my own in a hospital that's only a 45 minute train ride away. What a joke.

And so, I'm neither one of the beautiful people, nor am I blessed with family wealth. Don't believe the hype. All those 'self made' entrepreneurs are backed by loving families who are at least reasonably wealthy.

So, am I upset with my lot in life? Do I think that I deserve the advantages enjoyed by those serial entrepreneurs who go back to their families again and again to get more money to keep their business ambitions alive? Do I think that I should be able to pursue the arts, because my wealthy family are all duty-bound to become patrons? No.

I just want to escape the rat race, because I wasn't born to just pay bills and die. I'm fed up of being a wage slave to the wealthy elite. I'm fed up with the rigged game that means you can never get ahead. There's no escape. There's no peace. There's no real opportunity.

We're told the world is stuffed full of opportunity and the streets are paved with gold. Take another look. Look really hard this time. Yes? You see now? You need money to make money. You need a wealthy family behind you to underwrite your risk. Behind every artist who is loving what they do, is a wealthy patron. Behind every person pursuing their dreams is a whole heap of money.

Don't pursue your dreams. If you pursue your dreams, you are just impoverishing yourself, and making yourself an easy target for those who wish to keep you in economic slavery. Without those precious life savings, you can't escape and you'll have to go back to the rat race with your begging bowl.

That's what's happened to me, and that's why I'm so unhappy about it. Not because I'm a spoiled little rich kid.

 

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Limelight

6 min read

This is a story about star quality...

Cambridge Union

Hey! Is that Nick Grant pitching a Dragons Den panel at Cambridge Union? Isn't that the same podium in Cambridge where UK prime ministers and US presidents have wowed crowds? Isn't that the same podium where the world's best and brightest have stood? Yes. Yes it is.

If you're into astrology, you should know I'm a Leo. Apparently this means that I adore being the centre of attention. However, I've always had somebody yelling louder than me for the spotlight to be directed onto them.

Growing up, my dad had this horse-shit narrative about how cool he was because he took drugs. My childhood achievements were nothing compared to the amount of drugs and alcohol he could consume. Growing up, life was all about worshipping how smart he was for obtaining and taking intoxicating substances. Woo!

My longest relationship, with the girl who my friends affectionately called "the poison dwarf" was dominated by her tantrums if the attention was diverted from her. She completely ruined our joint birthday and engagement party, simply because her unpleasant nature had brought her few friends in life, and the event was mainly my friends, despite my efforts to help her encourage people from her own social circle to attend.

OK, I'm not that humble, but I'm not that arrogant either. If I'm bigging myself up, it's because it's a defence mechanism because I've been dragged down by my own parents, bullies and an abusive ex-wife. I've had a rough fucking ride, so let me have this one, OK?

I haven't lost perspective. I'm well aware that my achievements amount to nothing. I never got so much as a "well done" out of my parents for everything I've ever accomplished. It's tough fucking going, living life with insufferable cunts who just want to see you fail.

Normally, when things are going well, people are supportive and want to help you to continue to achieve your potential in life. Not so, in most of my story to date.

Often times startup founders receive their initial funding from friends and family. My friends contributed generously to my ambitions to build a profitable business, and they were repaid with the dividends from the company. My own parents saw no potential in what I was doing, even though billionaire investors took me under their wing and agreed to help my co-founder and I to build a valuable business. My ex-wife took particularly cruel delight in watching my dreams get shattered.

Yes, I'm subject the fatal flaw of a little too much desire to be loved and liked. When an acting coach suggested that we try my co-founder out to see if he was any better at delivering an investor pitch, I was mortified by the idea that I wouldn't get my moment of fame. For sure, I'm subject to big-headedness and delusions of grandeur as much as the next person, but in a way, I can argue that I deserved my little headlining moment, because I had always been kicked to the sidelines by self-centred parents and partners.

You know what? Give your kids their moment of fame. Let your kids bask in a bit of adoration. Don't hoover it all up for yourselves. You know what your input was? You had sex. Well done. Gold star. But that's nothing that every couple didn't already do for hundreds of millions of years. All you did was do what your fucking body was programmed to do. Now get the fuck out of the spotlight and let your kid enjoy their little moment. Your time is over. It's no longer your chance to shine. It's your moment to tell your kid well done, and that you're proud of them.

Butt the fuck out and acknowledge a good performance when you see one. Congratulate your fucking kid on their hard work and try and pretend like you're pleased, even if you're too fucking drug addled and self centred to even see straight.

You know what else? I'm fucking taking this one. I'm fucking taking this moment to tell myself well done, because nobody in my family is going to. My ex-wife isn't going to. Basically, the people who mattered most to me when some fairly monumental stuff happened to me in my life couldn't have given two shits about anything that wasn't to do with them and their selfish fucking world, so I'm going to relive this little moment and applaud myself.

Well fucking done me.

It ain't fucking easy battling for your moment of fame. It ain't fucking easy getting that chance, and then performing when it matters. It ain't fucking easy at all. And what's it all for if the people who you think care about you couldn't give a toss?

Well, guess what? I had that limelight. Not because I was a drug-taking fucktard like my parents, but because I worked hard to get that opportunity. I had that opportunity, not because I demanded it and stole it from my child, but because I wanted to impress, because I wanted to do something great.

Isn't that awful, that my parents made my entire childhood about them, shoving me into a dark corner so they could harvest all the ill-gotten attention? Isn't that awful, that my longest relationship was dominated by an abusive partner who demanded that the spotlight was always directed on her, and abused me to the point that I lost my confidence and became a withdrawn and shattered version of my former self?

Bygones. Regrets. Yes.

I'm just telling the story because nobody else is going to tell it. If you ask my parents they'll tell you that I was an evil waste of space who never achieved anything, and that's plain wrong.

This is me sticking up for myself. This is me fighting against the complete collapse of my self esteem that will render me hopelessly suicidally depressed. This is my defence mechanism.

I'm sorry if this comes across as arrogant or self-centred. I hope it comes across in the context of my desperately low sense of self-worth, given how I've been treated most of my life. I need a little pride and self confidence to be able to continue.

God damn, I'm so low right now.

 

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