10 Painfully Honest Life Lessons I Learned From Completely Restructuring My Life

Insights from raising myself from rock bottom.

Life lessons, when it rains it pours, restructuring life DagnyLouise | Canva, Courtesy of Author | O'Neal Sanders

This time last year, I was about to head home from a trip to Europe where I had lost a Jiu-Jitsu match that I didn’t want to lose. I had also just moved back in with my mom and dad, quit my job teaching at a Jiu-Jitsu gym, and was trying to figure out what was next.

I wasn’t at rock bottom, but I felt like I was trending downward and I needed to figure my life out. To get started, I invested $1000 in a writing course, booked an Airbnb, packed up my car, and drove 16 hours to Austin, Texas, where I was going to spend a month doing nothing but writing and training every day. And that’s what I did. But that was just the beginning. My day-to-day life nowadays is completely different from the way it was a year ago. I’ve completely restructured my life.


I now:

  • have a new job
  • live in a city
  • am in a good relationship
  • am better at Jiu-Jitsu than I’ve ever been
  • am stronger, healthier, and less injured than I’ve been in years

But it hasn’t been easy and I’m not done yet.

Here are the 10 painfully honest life lessons I learned from completely restructuring my life:

1. When it rains it pours, so make your mind an umbrella

Good opportunities come in bunches. Bad things also seem to come in bunches. The reason? Momentum. Either way, all it takes is one good or bad thing to set you off in some type of direction. These positive ebbs and flows are just part of life and they will never go away. The best thing that you can do is build a mind that is strong enough to withstand the negative and also not get too caught up in your success. Practice being level-headed in both good and bad times.


2. Don’t be afraid to seek help

Last February, I DMed one of my online writers (nearly 200k followers on X) and asked for advice. That led me to the $1000 course I took in April, which led me to the $6000 coaching program that has given me the job I have now. This time last April, I showed up at B-Team to train randomly, and now I have improved my skills (and placed in 2 more ADCC Trials) thanks to the bevy of world-class grapplers that I’m on the mat with every day.

Perhaps the unsung hero of the last year for me has been my girlfriend, who’s been there with me through losing $20k+ during my move/employment switch, losing matches, injuries, and working on my book that’s coming soon. The self-made man doesn’t exist. All the best achievements come from teamwork. You just need to find a winning team. In my experience, a silver-medal team will suffice.

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3. Failure isn’t personal 

I’ve had some good wins in the last year and some bad losses. When you fail no one worth keeping in your life is going to see you differently — they’re probably just going to tell you to keep going, to keep working. Failure isn’t final and the dire consequences that we have of failure are largely imagined. Putting yourself out there is all up-side most of the time as long as your ego can handle getting the results you deserve, not the ones you want.

4. You must build your own thing

I’ve never liked the idea of having my entire network coming from one place. For writing, I have my client work, but I also have Medium, Substack, Twitter, Instagram, and Quora as places that I publish. In training, I ask questions but I also do research to learn. You can learn a lot from the people in front of you, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do extra work on your own. Extra work is how you get ahead and eventually develop the ability to stand on your own. Always be building on the side.

5. The goal is not to have nothing to do; the goal is to have nothing to do that you hate

When I embarked on my new adventure in my new city, I was a bit lost. I was burned out of Jiu-Jitsu, sick of teaching, uninspired, and I was getting bored of writing and was worried that I had hit my ceiling. I quit so many things last year that I made myself bored. I had nothing to do because I was getting rid of all the things that I didn’t want to do. This made me realize that really, your goal shouldn’t be a clear schedule. Your goal should be a schedule that is full of things that you have personally selected — that's the ideal I'm chasing.

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6. Climbing the professional ladder is a pay-to-play game

In Jiu-Jitsu, if you want to do the ADCC Trials, you have to pay a registration fee, book a trip, pay for coaching and training, and that is all just to take part in the game. I’ve paid tens of thousands this year to compete in Jiu-Jitsu. In writing, I’ve invested nearly $10,000 in coaching, courses, books, and more in just the last year. All that sounds ridiculous to some people, but I’m the one doing this for a living, and paying to learn is an important part of leveling up in the game. If you’re scared to pay, you will never play well enough to get paid. Hard truth.

7. There is such thing as too much self-improvement

I’ll be honest, I like a self-help book now and then. However, over time, self-help can become motivation porn. “I did it, and so can you!” Heck, this article might even be an example of that. I wrote about a bunch of stuff that I did in the last year, and I’m hoping someone else might find it encouraging. This is why it’s important to mostly be focused on learning practical lessons and practical skills. The most important wisdom is written down in books, but you won’t understand it until you experience it through application. Take everything you read everywhere with a grain of salt. I am a subjective individual — just like everyone else.

10 Life Lessons From Completely Restructuring My Life Ahmet Misirligul / Shutterstock


8. All unhappiness comes from 2 places

  1. Letting yourself down.
  2. Trying to control things that you can’t control.

When I lose a match or fail at something, I am upset for two reasons. I’m either upset because I didn’t work hard enough/give my all — meaning I let myself down — or I'm upset because bad stuff happened and I’m feeling sorry for myself. If you’re feeling sorry for yourself, give yourself grace and rebuild. Bad stuff happens to everyone; it’s best not to internalize it. If you didn’t work hard enough, don’t beat yourself up. Simply restructure your behavior so that you are giving your all with no regrets.

RELATED: Why You Need To Let Go Of The Things You Cannot Change

9. You have more time than you realize

I sometimes get the sense that I am running out of time at the age of 26. It’s this unsettling, cringeworthy feeling that I’m nearing the end of my chance to do something remarkable with my life. That I’m at the edge of the abyss of mediocrity and I’m going to fall unless I win ADCC or write a bestseller by next week. If you struggle with this too, all I can say is that you are running out of time (we all are, and that’s life) but not as fast as you think. Give yourself a break because no one else will.


10. Everything worth doing takes longer than you want it to

This time last year, I packed my car and drove to Texas for a month to chase a dream. I also wrote a book, competed all over the world, moved, met an incredible woman, and built a new career for myself. None of it happened in a day, but it all happened over the year. Everything worth doing takes longer than you think. Most people overestimate how much they can accomplish in a day, but underestimate how much they can accomplish in a year. Next time you’re thinking about giving up because you aren’t making enough progress, remember that.

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Chris Wojcik is a writer, ghostwriter, and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt. His writing has reached millions of readers on sites like Medium and Quora, among others.