by Niall Doherty


It’s 9am on a Monday. I’ve been up for four hours. I didn’t want to get up. I wrapped a huge project yesterday, capping an almost 80-hour workweek. After five hours kip I dragged myself out of bed and pushed through a solid workout in the drizzling Hong Kong dawn. Now I look down at the busy street from my window, at everyone headed to work. I smile, close the curtains, and crawl back into bed for a long, well-earned nap.


I need to be careful. From these emails it seems a lot of people have begun to view me as some kind of authority on business. But I’m far from that. I’ve seen online types make big money by advising others how to make big money, not by building a real nuts and bolts business. I don’t want to become one of those guys. Might be able to fool some people and make it work, but I’d never fool myself.


The last four days I’ve averaged just over six hours of sleep, and I’m under seven for the month. Wanting to catch up last night I went to bed early… and lay there for three full hours before dozing off. Today I decided I’m not going to worry about lack of sleep. I’m functioning just fine. I’m reminded of what Kelly McGonigal said about stress: it’s not the stress itself that harms you, but your believing that it does.


I’m going to miss Hong Kong. There are certain places where you transform. New Jersey in ’04 was one. New Orleans was another. Amsterdam a couple of years ago. India last year. It’s not so much the place that you miss. It’s that awakening, the leveling up, the deeper knowing of self. I paused my workout this morning at KGP to take in the elderly ladies doing their tai chi with brightly colored fans. I almost cried I was so grateful.


I watch Danny Dover’s excellent TEDx Talk and email him my commendations. He replies saying he’s familiar with my blog and also happens to be in Hong Kong right now. An hour later we’re meeting in the flesh and chatting it up over dinner, followed by a long stroll through the sloped streets. Legend of a chap. I fucking love the Internet.

Sad to leave behind those old ladies and their tai chi in Hong Kong

Sad to leave behind those old ladies and their tai chi in Hong Kong


The afternoon disappears as we sit chatting over empty glasses. She’s got dreams undefined, knows she needs a change. I try listen more than I talk, always a challenge but I do a decent job of it this time. I’m full of answers and ideas, but I have to remind myself to first figure out the questions. When I succeed, the answers are usually self-evident, yet different than expected.


There’s a storm coming, biggest typhoon of the year they say, perhaps the decade. We meet at the Intercontinental regardless. Milestone birthday for him tomorrow, and his first big business launch happening later this week. We drink iced coffee, eat tiny cakes and sandwiches. Word from the waitress is a signal eight as the light fades. We head back underground and say our goodbyes. We may meet again in Chiang Mai a month from now.


The water fountains in the parks are marked to show when they were last inspected and the filters changed. It’s always within the past three months. Old people aren’t startled by hurried footsteps heard behind them. The land that crime forgot. I mentioned once that the lock on my door was loose and there arrived two guys to fix it the same week. No reminder required.


Self-discipline is a muscle, and there are tons of opportunities to practice. I usually eat too fast, so I set a timer for breakfast in the morning, not allowed finish until fifteen minutes have passed. Today I decided on a new ritual: I’ll wait at least one minute before digging in when I sit down to eat. I just have to sit there and wait, savoring the sight and smell of the food, practicing delayed gratification.


I cheat with my push-ups. I should really do them slower, more controlled. But I’d have quit weeks ago if I’d stuck to that. Seeing my rep-count increase regularly motivates me to keep going. What’s better: two weeks of perfect then quit, or indefinite weeks of good enough? Same with diet. Six days eating healthy and one cheat day is more sustainable than trying to be perfect all the time. Cheat in battle, win the war.

Signs for sale in Hong Kong

Signs for sale in Hong Kong


Final evening, one to be savored. I hang back at the Po Kee and enjoy a cuppa before grabbing a happy snap with my Hong Kong moms. On to the supermarket where coconut talk is had with a random Aussie chick in a floppy hat. I stroll back slow to the apartment, bag heavy with gifts and buds in my ears, a secret soundtrack stoking my warm buzz for this city. I’ve been happy here.


There’s a thrill that comes with it, every time I pack my bags and blow town. It’s Friday lunchtime and everyone’s bustling by in work wear, rushing to grab a bite. I move through the mob almost invisible, in jeans and a t-shirt, a glitch in their matrix. This time tomorrow I’ll be in Nanning. Sunday, Hanoi. Next week, Vientiane, then Bangkok, then Chiang Mai. And they’ll all still be here, lunching on blue pills.


If you ever want to feel like Brad Pitt, come to Nanning and walk around town some Saturday afternoon. Pretty young girls with their half-talk code of mysteries, their wink-and-elbow language of delight. But nare a dance at Billy Brennan’s barn tonight. Not for me anyways. I answer emails and edit video as darkness falls on China’s green city.


We zip through several intersections on red, dodging cross traffic. There are two cops stationed at one junction but they don’t seem to give a shit. Eventually we reach the Old Quarter and he flashes a yellow-toothed grin as we get off the bike. I hand him 100 and insist on 40 change, as agreed. Fecker makes a fuss about it but I stand my ground. I’d have gladly given it all if I’d detected an ounce of honesty in the man.


I follow him out of the restaurant and tap his shoulder. He turns, a bit startled. “Hi, I just wanted to meet you after overhearing the nice thing you did for the two deaf girls in there. You’re an inspiration.” His name is John, an Englishman living in Perth, almost in his sixties. We chat for a few minutes about accents and kindness before he shakes one of my hands with both of his and disappears into the buzzing streets of Hanoi.

Morning street market in Nanning, China

Morning street market in Nanning, China

In the comments below, let me know which of the above Momentos is your favorite. Which can you relate to?

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