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👋 Hi, I’m Kyle—the human behind Sloww.
In a Nutshell:
I’m an ex-marketing executive turned corporate dropout and solopreneur who found my life purpose after an existential crisis. In one sentence: my purpose is synthesizing lifelong learning that catalyzes human development (as you’ll see below, it took me years on the journey before I figured that out and could articulate it).
A big epiphany along the way was realizing that not only can thinking be a passion, it is my primary passion. But, I’m not a professor, philosopher, psychologist, sociologist, anthropologist, scientist, or guru. I’m an interconnector across all those humans and many more. Technically, I guess I’m an “independent interdisciplinary integrator” (“independent” because I work solo, “interdisciplinary” because I’m tackling the art of living which crosses all disciplines, and “integrator” because the whole point is to synthesize new perspectives, understanding, and wisdom). You may be familiar with similar and often synonymous terms like autodidact, philomath, generalist, comprehensivist, knowledge networker, and cognitive explorer. To make things easy, you can just call me a “synthesizer” or “synthesist.”
I do all the homework—questioning, researching, curating, reading, note-taking, summarizing, synthesizing, writing, creating, and sharing. You get all the highlights—so you spend less time on all those things and more time learning, practicing, and mastering. I’m learning why and how to live and publicly sharing what I learn along the way. Sloww shares the art of living with students of life. Sloww currently has a Premium membership with 1,000+ global members, weekly email newsletter with 10,000+ subscribers, social media following of 35,000+, and website with 70,000+ monthly visitors.
My “Old” Life (Pre-Crisis): Life was heavy and depleting—one thing after another that I had to do. Externally focused. Lacking purpose. Superficial. Complicated. Reactive. Unconscious and spiritually poor.
My “New” Life (Post-Crisis): Life is lighter and regenerating—one thing after another that I get to do. Internally focused. Purposeful. Deeper. Simpler. Intentional. More conscious and spiritually rich.
If you want to get to know me better, here are some podcasts from 2023 (or see all podcasts, Spotify playlist, or YouTube playlist):
The Short Story:
Late 2015: My story gets interesting in late 2015, at age 30, when I found myself in the midst of a self-diagnosed existential crisis. I was well into my marketing career—at my 4th company in 8 years. I was also a certified workaholic (or “total worker“) who glorified busyness and was working 60-80+ hour weeks for 6+ months straight at the time. But, life works in funny ways: I was getting paid six figures in my day job to reinvent an old apparel brand that was having its own brand identity crisis, and the work sparked my own personal existential crisis! Looking back now, it seems like my crisis was caused by a one-two punch of burnout plus purposelessness. I had worked long hours in my career before, but I hadn’t worked long hours this consistently on something that I found inherently lacking purpose. This is when all the questions started—probably beginning with something along the lines of, “Am I really here to sell people more stuff they don’t need?” I had been a high achiever my whole life in school, sports, and work, but I completely missed the most important subject: LIFE!
“You can get all A’s and still flunk life.” — Walker Percy
I had lived 30 years without really questioning much about my life or life in general. My self-worth was my work. My identity was my LinkedIn profile. My energy in life had been primarily externally-focused up to this point. But, one question led to another, led to another, led to another. I questioned everything: “What is my purpose?” “Why am I here?” “Who am I?” The crisis seemed like my personal problem to solve, and I started to give myself a crash course on life. The acute portion of my crisis lasted six weeks (but little did I know it would plant the seed that would change the course of my life).
“I’ve never heard of anybody who awakens in their comfort zone.” — Eckhart Tolle
This is also when I first discovered intentional living (what I consider Sloww Stage 1). I emailed my parents on Christmas Day 2015 and said, “Just bought the domain Sloww.co. Not sure what I want to do with it yet, but I’ve been inspired reading about downshifting, minimalism, simple living, and the slow movement” (I’d go on to discover unbusyness, voluntary simplicity, decluttering, digital decluttering/minimalism, and more). I had no idea there was an alternative/contrarian path to how I had been living. I had followed the typical path in Western society: go to school, get a job, get better jobs that pay more, buy more, spend more, repeat. Intentional living seemed like a cure or antidote to my busyness. I wondered if it could even be an escape from my purposeless career.
“Every transformation demands as its precondition ‘the ending of a world’—the collapse of an old philosophy of life.” — C.G. Jung
2016-17: During 2016-17 while still working full-time, I immersed myself in the inner journey in my free time—trying to get to know myself with the intent of discovering my life purpose (what I consider Sloww Stage 2). In conventional/traditional terms, killing myself at work “paid off” with a promotion to Marketing Director and higher salary, higher bonus, more stock, etc. The seeds of intentional living I had recently discovered hadn’t bloomed into my actual lifestyle yet (this is a common, recurring theme I’ve noticed: learning about something plants a seed that may not germinate/develop or blossom/bloom for months/years—if at all). My wife and I experienced lifestyle inflation and bought a McMansion in the suburbs and a sports car—unconsciously sucked into keeping up with the Joneses and the modern American Dream. Externally, you’d think my life was amazing. Internally, I was more miserable than ever and dying inside. I had to live and learn the hard way. No amount of pleasure offsets a lack of purpose. No amount of money offsets a lack of meaning. You can’t buy yourself off. Luckily, I discovered the FIRE (Financial Independence Retire Early) movement in mid-2017, my wife and I cut our total household expenses 30% in 2018 vs 2017, and I did a no-buy year with clothing.
“I’ve never seen any life transformation that didn’t begin with the person in question finally getting tired of their own bullshit.” — Elizabeth Gilbert
2018: I continued to work full-time for 2.5 years post-crisis (late 2015 to mid-2018), but these were the roughest years of cognitive dissonance. What I was learning about life and myself in my free time increasingly conflicted with how I was still living by showing up to my purposeless career. I felt like I had a foot in two worlds:
“Many people who are going through the early stages of the awakening process are no longer certain what their outer purpose is. What drives the world no longer drives them. Seeing the madness of our civilization so clearly, they may feel somewhat alienated from the culture around them. Some feel that they inhabit a no-man’s land between two worlds.” — Eckhart Tolle
Finally, the cognitive dissonance reached a tipping point, and I quit my career to pursue entrepreneurship in mid-2018. It took me a long time to realize I was actually an entrepreneur who unconsciously stumbled into a marketing career for a decade. While I couldn’t have told you my purpose in a single sentence at this point, I directionally felt like I knew what I needed to follow (and equally important, what I did not need to follow anymore). I knew I had to align my life with something more purposeful (see 🔒my personal lifestyle design):
“I wanted more than a job. I wanted deeper congruence between my inner and outer life.” — Parker J. Palmer
2018-Today: Most of my lifelong learning (“horizontal development”) and human development (“vertical development”) really started to take off after mid-2018. It was probably 2-3 years into Sloww before I started getting into Sloww Stage 3, and another couple years before Sloww Stage 4. Today, I’m approaching the 5-year anniversary since I quit my career. The total forfeited opportunity cost since then is over $1M in potential earnings ($250k/year x 5), but there’s no amount of money (literally, no amount) you could pay me to relive these last 5 years differently.
“We must be willing to get rid of the life we’ve planned, so as to have the life that is waiting for us. The old skin has to be shed before the new one can come.” — Joseph Campbell
In the 5 years I’ve been full-time on Sloww, I’ve learned a life-changing amount about life that has been a catalyst in transforming my life: lifelong learning, human development, financial independence, lifestyle design, happiness (+ Hierarchy of Happiness eBook), life purpose (+ Ikigai 2.0 eBook), meaning of life, death, self-actualization, biology, science, psychology, philosophy, spirituality, consciousness, systems thinking, cognitive biases & mental models (+ Mini Mind), meta-crisis, wisdom, transcendence, enlightenment, nonduality, lottery of birth, free will, and much more (see my 10 most life-changing ideas after 500+ posts).
The Deeper Level:
There have been a number of deeper realizations that have become apparent to me over the last few years.
My Lost Years (Ages 18-33): I was essentially lost in life in many ways from ages 18-33. It’s now obvious to me that my college years (ages 18-22) were some of the most lost years of my life. I picked my college in the first place because they offered me a scholarship to run cross country and track—which I quit by my sophomore year because I no longer enjoyed running (and therefore forfeited the scholarship—instead opting to do dishes at the dining hall with my friends which was actually more fun). It was the first time in my life no longer participating in organized, team sports. So, there I was at a school I picked for a reason that no longer applied. I didn’t really pick the school for the school (it was secondary), and I stumbled into a business/marketing major for no good reason. I didn’t study hard because my college classes were easier than my high school classes. It was the first time in my life not getting straight As. School and sports had always been big priorities in my life up to that point, and now neither were for the first time ever. So, what did I do? I unconsciously filled the void by partying. Then four years were over, and I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life. I didn’t take any internships, and wasn’t in a rush to get a “real job” after graduating (age 22). Five months after graduating, I landed my first marketing job. That job snowballed into others and eventually a full-blown marketing career. I woke up 8 years later with an existential crisis (age 30), and quit my career 2.5 years later (age 33).
Quitting Career: Quitting a career isn’t always a clear and obvious choice. Even though I had entrepreneurial dreams my whole life (brainstormed 100+ business ideas) and was working on entrepreneurial side projects during my entire career (5 projects pursued), I still applied for new full-time marketing jobs in mid-2017 and early 2018 during my years of cognitive dissonance. I took myself out of the running for one, and got flat out rejected from the other. The only other job I had been rejected from was the very first job I applied for out of college. I guess it’s only fitting that I was rejected from my first and last “real” jobs. There were no other jobs available that I wanted, and my current job was reaching a boiling point (now 2.5 years post-existential crisis). I couldn’t do it anymore and had no other options, so I finally quit my career to pursue entrepreneurship. Sometimes you need to be backed into a corner, have the bridges burned, have no Plan B—in order to finally pursue what you already know deep down you need to pursue.
Money: My 🔒relationship with money has evolved over the years, but I’m lucky that money has never been a primary motivator in my life (even though I started working at 13 and haven’t stopped since). This made it easier for me to quit my high-paying career than others who are primarily extrinsically motivated by money (this aligns with Daniel Kahneman saying that “the importance that people attached to income at age 18 also anticipated their satisfaction with their income as adults” (via The Pathless Path by Paul Millerd) as well as The Psychology of Money by Morgan Housel saying your views on money are formed early in life).
Self-Worth: While I’m not primarily extrinsically motivated, I am wired in a way where my worth has always been directly tied to my work. My intrinsic motivation seems primarily driven by a fear of unworthiness/uselessness (disappointing parents, others, and myself). Here’s a personal example of the 5 Whys:
- I got good grades, excelled at sports, and moved up in my career. Why?
- Because I was a high achiever with an insane work ethic. Why?
- Because my self-worth was directly tied to my work in everything I did (school, sports, work). Why?
- Because I was driven by a fear of disappointing my parents, others, and myself—a fear of being worthless/useless. Why?
- I don’t know. Eventually, asking “Why?” will lead you to an unanswerable mystery.
Existential Crisis: I thought I questioned everything during my existential crisis, but I never questioned my own mind that allowed me to positively, proactively, and productively respond to my crisis the way I did. How did I get that mind in the first place? Not only did I not choose to have a crisis, but I also did not choose the mind that responded to the crisis in the way it did. I didn’t choose to have a mind that wasn’t satisfied with high pay, a McMansion, and sports car and heavily prioritized passion and purpose for some reason. If anything, I was executing my lottery of birth, socialization, and conditioning at least until this point (which was age 30).
Meta-Crisis: I created a digital directory at MetaCrisis.org of all the people and projects in the ever-growing “wisdom web” (which has also been called the intellectual dark/deep web, sensemaking web, liminal web, and more). It’s my perspective that our #1 challenge, ultimate problem, root cause, generator function of the meta-crisis is: our relationship with our minds. Most people are their mind—they think they are their thoughts; their ideas are their identity. Once you’re able to observe/witness your mind as an object and are no longer identified with it, things become much clearer. Most are subject to their lottery of birth, socialization, and conditioning because it’s the water they are swimming in without realizing it. You can only begin to transcend these things (and change your relationship with them) once you have awareness of them as objects (see 🔒subject-object relationship).
Lottery of Birth: In my 30s, my mom told me, “You were born that way…quiet, thinking, observing the crazy things in life.” Discovering the concept of the lottery of birth (or ovarian lottery) has been one of the most impactful realizations on my journey to date. I’m now very aware of all my nature and nurture that I didn’t choose or control, and I’m incredibly lucky and grateful for the 🔒lottery ticket I received. This naturally leads to further realizations. The 🔒strangest thing to me is that we are responsible for 0% of the brain/mind we receive through our lottery of birth (nature + nurture), but then at some point we all accept 100% sole responsibility. We call this “free will,” but after these realizations and a deep dive into free will (20+ posts), it no longer makes much sense. The lottery of birth, my own psychological development, and learning about the latest scientific research from biology and neuroscience all converged at the same time and pointed at the same thing—what I call my “holy shit moment.” Here’s 🔒how I live with the lottery of birth and lack of free will.
Psychological Development: My journey aligns closely with Ego Development Theory. Here’s 🔒my self-assessment, and how the 🔒Sloww stages map to EDT’s stages:
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