I feel like it’s a good idea to list the mistakes I’ve made. Not because I dwell on them and can’t get over them, but because it’s intellectually honest to admit that not every choice was a great one, even if I managed to find its upside. Also, it might make other people think about their own situation from another perspective. I don’t think it will be very helpful though, as everyone really has a unique situation. But maybe!

Here are some mistakes I made, in no particular order of importance:

Studying languages

After secondary school, I didn’t really know what to do, but I knew that I had a natural inclination for accents. This was the major cause why I chose to study French language and literature, and Swedish language and culture.

I had some other stories I told people, e.g. “Swedish is exactly sufficiently important to be studied, but sufficiently obscure that not many people know it” or “I’m doing really good with French and I don’t want to lose it” but the honest reason was that I knew that I could imitate accents really well.

Suffice to say that this isn’t the best possible reason for why you’d want to start a three-year university program, much less a five-year one, and much less a five-year one with a two-year extension.

Why I think this was a bad choice

I never worked with French or Swedish, even when I worked as a translator. I never in my life visited Sweden. The job opportunities were scarce to non-existent, and job opportunities that did present themselves actually had much higher requirements than what I had after university.

I would expect to know a language really well after seven years of studying it, but the sad fact is that I have a very intermediate level, and very frequently can’t remember the right words. I can occasionally understand what someone is talking about.

You could say that this isn’t because of the program itself, but because I didn’t apply myself enough, and you’d be partially correct. I didn’t. That’s the part of the reason why this was a bad choice - it’s not something I wanted to apply myself for.

However, there are other aspects that were outside my responsibility:


In hindsight, everything seems super easy, so I don’t really blame younger me for selecting French and Swedish as the university program. But I think I had plenty of opportunities for quitting during the seven years I spent studying, and never did. I have a Master’s degree in French and Swedish, but probably also in sunk cost fallacy.


When every fiber of your being is screaming at you “this isn’t for you and you shouldn’t be here at all” and it’s not like a one-time thing, but all the time, you should… you know, listen to that voice.

Participating in a cross-company initiative

Someone in my company had an idea that we’re missing a central place for onboarding new hires. Some sort of internal learning portal, where managers can build courses for their reports, or where you can take a new hire and make sure that they’re up to speed with what they need to do.

Sounds good on paper, but isn’t really that good in practice. The reason is that teams have been forced to use our solution, at their own detriment. They maybe had an organic solution, something that they were used to and that didn’t scale, but didn’t need to scale. Now, they must use our big, clunky learning management solution (LMS).

This is actually a great example of how humans can produce bad outcomes for themselves with best intentions and no pressing need. I was aware of the best intentions part, but didn’t have any idea about the “no pressing need” part. Nobody told me or the team for this initiative that we had to do this. We just sort of… decided that we had to do this. And every step of the way seemed like a sensible decision, or a sensible compromise at least.

Maybe I’m being a bit too cynical - it’s not the end of the world, nobody will suffer if they don’t use the software we created, and there actually are benefits to it. It’s really not all bad. Maybe the good even outweighs the bad, who knows. Still, the fact remains - it doesn’t seem necessary or important. And it did seem necessary when I joined.


Maybe be a bit more grumpy? A little less enthusiastic? I think that I could have saved myself quite a lot of energy if I wasn’t in enthusiastic go-getter mode when they asked me if I wanted to join. Yeah, the general lesson is that the default answer is no, unless there’s a very good reason for yes.

Rescuing a dog

I’m kinda reluctant to write this because it sounds bad, but I think that taking in a dog was a mistake. I did make the most of it, and there were and still are very good moments and memories, and I love my dog. But regardless of all the upside that I managed to find, if I look at what I knew seven years ago, with my state of knowledge and experience and resources and so on, taking that dog was not the wisest thing.

I’m not talking about taking any dog - there’s a good chance that if I took another one, things would work out fine. But my dog is a very destructive, very energetic, sometimes aggressive, hunting dog. It’s just a difficult dog to handle.

“Actually, you should…”

It’s generally very easy to say what someone should or shouldn’t do when you have experience only with particular dog personalities. I’m not saying that the problems I find with my dog are unsolvable, only that they are actually difficult.

What went wrong

My girlfriend and I took in our dog when we were living in a rented 30m2 apartment. It would regularly destroy our furniture, clothes, sheets, pillows, devices, device cables, etc. This means you can’t leave it alone, even for a little bit. That’s already a big psychological toll, because you’re going from taking care for yourself and your job/university obligations to taking care for a being that has the best intentions, but just doesn’t understand stuff. This means that you can’t be spontaneous, ever. You just close a bunch of doors to yourself.

But at least you can live a healthy, sporty, outdoorsy lifestyle now, right? Sure, if you’re a fan of separating dog fights or of pulling cats out of dogs’ jaws, that’s very healthy. If you like being hypervigilant, even when your dog is on a leash, because it might lunge at strangers, then that’s great.

Why this was a mistake

Somebody else would have taken the dog. Maybe someone with a big ranch. And the dog would have probably had a better life than with us. And we wouldn’t have been psychologically on edge all the time.


Don’t downplay the difficulty in having a pet. Some dogs are so easy to handle, but some really are not. And also, and I know this is an unpopular take: if you make a mistake, revert it as soon as possible. There’s nothing wrong with a couple of weeks of trying to see if you and your new pet can work well together.

(Obviously, don’t be an asshole, take the pet for a year or two and then decide that you don’t want that baggage anymore - the tryout shouldn’t last longer than a month or two)


The dog is still with us. We bought a house with a big yard and a piece of forest. It’s living its best life. She has a buddy now. I love her very much. But you judge a choice not based on its consequences, but on the consequences you would have predicted when you made the choice. All’s well that ends well - well, not really. But in this case, yeah.


Training Wing Chun

When I started with my university studies, I had to do some physical exercise stuff as well as part of the curriculum. One of the choices was “self defense”. I wanted to learn how to defend myself, so I came to class. The course was based on Wing Chun - a form of kung fu. I learned and trained and trained, but my intention was always to start training Brazilian jiu jitsu.

The self defense trainer told me “well, that’s cool, but why don’t you come by and just try Wing Chun out?”

And I was like, sure. And then seven years passed, and I got really good at something really stupid.

Why this was a mistake

Wing Chun is a very bad choice if you want to learn how to fight. It’s just so bad on many levels. It doesn’t teach you anything usefull really, it perpetuates untested ideas on how combat looks like, it ensnares you in a cult-like structure, and you end up with a really bad sense of how you’d fare in a fight.

I know this because I decided one day to test my Wing Chun in an MMA tournament. I lost the two fights, both on the floor, because I had no grappling, I had no boxing, I had no distance control, and I had no sense of the raw aggression in a fight.

The week after the fights, I started training Brazilian jiu jitsu, just like I wanted to seven years ago.


I don’t know if I have one. It’s probably be more skeptical. Everything I trained seemed reasonable at the time. But if I was more focused on exploring instead of exploiting - if I just visited a couple of boxing gyms, wrestling gyms, Muay Thai gyms, MMA gyms - if I had just expanded my horizon a bit, I would have gotten out much sooner. And also, when you feel like you’re trapped in a cult, you’re probably trapped in a cult.