(If you can’t see the video above, you might need to click through to the blog. Or, if you hate videos, just read the text interview below. )
I first came across Niall Doherty when a friend sent me a link to his Random Acts of Courage Experiment. Needless to say, Niall immediately struck me as a fun and passionately alive person – what with his experiments of lying down in a busy shopping mall, or asking a stranger for a piggyback ride.
I’ve been in touch with Niall ever since, and he just continues to amaze me with his passion for life. He went on to move to Spain for three months without speaking any Spanish, then embarked on a round-trip around the world without flying (which he’s still on, by the way), while he still carries out various crazy experiments. Like flirting with 100+ women in two weeks in Amsterdam.
So here he comes… Niall Doherty!
Q: Give us a bit of background about yourself. What was your life like before you quit your 9-to-5 job in the US?
It was comfortable. I’d moved to New Orleans from Ireland in 2007 to follow my favorite basketball team. By 2009 I was living my dream there, having my sports writing featured on ESPN.com, getting courtside media access to all the games, interviewing players and coaches in the locker room. And I loved living in New Orleans. Fantastic city.
All the while I was in New Orleans I was working full-time as a web designer for a university. I liked the job. The work was challenging without being stressful, I got on great with my colleagues, the pay was good, the benefits were nice. All in all, the situation was good enough. But I knew that “good enough” wasn’t good enough for me. For something I spent 2000 hours per year at, I wanted my work life to be great.
Meanwhile, I’d also started to fall out of love with basketball. I was spending 20+ hours per week aside from my day job writing about ten guys chasing a ball around a wooden floor. After a couple of years of that, I realized that it wasn’t what I wanted to devote the rest of my life to, not the legacy I wanted to leave behind. I’d been developing more of an interest in personal development and experimenting with a few different lifestyle concepts, and I found all that much more fulfilling than anything else I was doing.
Inevitably, I made the decision to quit my job and leave the US so I could really start pushing my comfort zone and living on my own terms. I knew there were huge growth opportunities there for me if I took the leap.
As for moving to Spain and traveling the world, those are just some of the answers I’ve come up with to the question, “What would you do if you knew you couldn’t fail?” I wanted to move to Spain and learn Spanish, so I just went for it. And now I’m a few months into my round the world trip. My financial situation was pretty uncertain when I left, but it’s getting better with each passing weak. Amazing what can happen if you work hard and trust yourself
I got the idea from one of Steve Pavlina’s Conscious Growth Workshops, which I attended back in July of 2010. Steve assigned us a bunch of power and courage exercises, such as asking a stranger for a hug, singing in public, and flirting with attractive members of the opposite sex. I could feel myself growing with every attempt, and I decided to take it to the next level a few months later with my Random Acts of Courage project. The aim there was to go out every day for five days and do ten things each day that would push me out of my comfort zone. The week began with me speaking on national radio, and ended with my first Salsa class and a freshly shaved head. In between I took a nap in a department store, got a piggy back ride from a stranger, and hit on the hottest girl in the room.
I felt like a completely different person when it was all said and done. I’d never felt so empowered and confident.
I learned a lot from the experience, but perhaps the biggest thing was this: Fear is no match for persistence. The first few times you try something will be scary, but just keep staring your fear in the eye and it will eventually blink.
It’s all about questioning what you do and how you think, and trying out different approaches for a while to see if they work better for you. An example for me would be pornography. Like most guys, I was very much into porn growing up, but over time I started to wonder if it was doing me more harm than good. So I decided to give it up for 40 days and see what my life was like without it. I liked the results so I never went back.
Other life experiments I’ve tried include giving up drinking, vegetarianism and veganism, self-employment, polyphasic sleep, showering without shampoo, giving up orgasms, and sleeping on the floor. Some experiments turn out well, while others, not so much (like the last two I mentioned). But I’ve never regretted any of the experiments I’ve done. I learn a little more about myself and the world regardless of how each one turns out.
Definitely my diet experiments. Those were what kickstarted it all. I did a 30-day trial of vegetarianism back in 2009 and it worked really well for me. I remember thinking to myself, “Wait a minute! You mean there was a better way for me to be eating all this time? What else have I been missing out on?”
And so I started poking around at all sorts of things. As mentioned, some experiments work, some don’t. I’ve found that just because something works for another person doesn’t mean that it will work for me. It’s only by trying it out myself that I really learn.
Q: What quick tips would you give to a person wanting to feel more passionately alive in their life?
My biggest one would be to regularly do shit that scares you. All those irrational fears like speaking in public, flirting with that hottie at the bar, having those awkward conversations with friends and family… Most of us are waiting for the fear to go away before we do these things, but the doing always has to come first. In fact, the fear never fully goes away, but by facing it regularly you learn that it doesn’t have to be your master.
Other quick tips:
- Environment is huge. Surround yourself with inspiring and supportive people.
- Let your freak flag fly. Normal is way overrated.
- Realize that you’re free to reinvent yourself at any moment and become whoever you want to be.
- Talk to strangers.
- Go hard after your dreams.
Niall Doherty is the chief rabble rouser over at Disrupting the Rabblement, and a big-time advocate of thinking for yourself, living your dreams, and pissing off zombies. He’s currently in the midst of a four-year trip around the world without flying. Do check out his website if you want to know more!