In Chapter 6 of the podcast, J. Thorn discusses the significance of not just surviving, but thriving after experiencing traumatic events or identity-shifting changes. The “Reward” is the badge earned for surviving the ordeal, but it can lead to disillusionment when it doesn’t feel as expected, a sentiment often experienced by retirees. While the core identity remains, the outlook changes, and there is a stronger drive to assist the next generation. This stage is not easy, and new challenges and obstacles will emerge. The “Call to Adventure” must be heeded again, guiding one home to share wisdom with loved ones and leave a legacy for future generations.

Surviving isn’t enough. You must thrive. Although nobody wants to suffer through traumatic events or identity-shifting change (whether we chose it or not), the lessons from it are incredibly powerful, and can be used to help others through similar situations.

The “Reward” is the badge you earn for surviving the ordeal. It’s the scars of wisdom, the satisfaction of survival and the practical knowledge you’ve gained from it. The Reward can come as a result of surviving an ordeal, loss of a loved one, or the conclusion of a career or life phase.

But it’s dispiriting when you earn the Reward and discover that it doesn’t feel the way you thought it would. Retirees face this disillusionment all the time. You’ve spent a lifetime pushing that boulder up the mountain, and then you’re standing on the summit. Now what?

Your core identity remains—always. But your outlook changes. The things that mattered to you before no longer do. You find yourself with less personal ambition, and a stronger drive to help the next generation hear their Call to Adventure.

This stage won’t be easy. Your story isn’t over. You’ll face new challenges and obstacles and some of them will be treacherous. You’ll need to minimize distractions and maximize focus to coach, teach, and mentor those starting their journey.

You worked hard for your Reward. You deserve it. But now you have to listen to the Call to Adventure again, this time guiding you home where you’ll share your wisdom with the people you love. In doing so, you’ll not only enjoy satisfaction in a life well lived, but you’ll be leaving that legacy for generations to come.

Keeping your core identity

I’m almost home. I’ve earned my Reward and now I stand at the city gates, ready to share what I’ve learned so that others can enjoy the life that I have.

But throw a global pandemic in the works, and there goes your Zen-like attitude toward life.

I suffered through it like we all did, although I decided early on that I was going to see the isolation as a gift instead of a curse. In the early days of the COVID-19 lockdowns, I went on a content creating spree.

After building several courses on writing and publishing, I started The Author Life Community—an online space for creative writers to ask, share, and support one another. I launched the community just as mandatory quarantines were being put into place by most of the world’s governments.

Continuing with my one-on-one coaching and mentoring via Zoom, and speaking with people in my community, I made the decision to move to a cohort-based group coaching model, commonly known as a “mastermind” group. That evolution changed my life in a beautifully unexpected way.

For years, I ran a weekly mastermind of 10-15 people and to this day I’m so proud of the accomplishments of those alumni. And personally, I realized that through my life experience, I’d gained insight and wisdom that could be transformative for others. It’s why you’re listening right now.

Other opportunities arose that I had not anticipated, but aligned with my core identity.

For example, Seth Godin invited me to write for “The Carbon Almanac,” a book that will have a lasting impact and has become part of my legacy. I co-founded the “Writers, Ink” podcast with J.D. Barker, interviewing dozens of the most successful people in the world and collecting their wisdom. Microsoft hired me to co-teach an entrepreneurship workshop at their main campus in Washington state, and a Medtech company hired me to consult on a grant program funded by the National Institute of Health.

Every new opportunity, while unexpected or not immediately relevant to my current work, tapped into my core identity as a storyteller and teacher—and I didn’t have to force those connections.

The Writer’s Well // Episode 26 // June 28, 2017

This clip is from “The Writer’s Well” podcast episode 26, first published on June 28, 2017.

Rachael asked me a poignant question: “How’s the new job, J.?”

We recorded this episode on literally the first day I was officially self-employed. Like many of my podcast episodes, I’m happy I have a record of this conversation as it reminds me what it felt like to go through a major life change.

This conversation is relevant to anyone making a big change, whether that’s changing jobs, retiring, or starting a small business because it reminds us that we all have feelings of uncertainty and anxiety.

You’ll hear how anxiety manifests physically, and why fear of doing new things can lead to burnout.

You’ll discover that the treasure you seek doesn’t shine the way you think it will. An idyllic image of what the Reward looks like gets blurred by reality. Freed of the golden handcuffs and left to our own devices, fear and doubt can take hold.


Rachael: Today, you are a full-time writer.

J.: I think we, I think we can say that. Yeah.

Rachael: How does it feel?

J.: It’s crazy. And yeah, it’s really kind of nuts. I am, I am right now. Like, I, and you said it’s going to take a long time. I cannot get out of that, like, that morning routine that I spent years and years and years in, where I feel like I have to get everything done for the day in the first 40 minutes I’m awake.

Rachael: Right? That’s because that is all you had.

J.: Yeah, like 40 to 60 minutes. And that was like the bulk of my workday on my author stuff. And so now I’m like, I’m just I have to, like, take a deep breath, calm myself down, get a cup of coffee, like, easy.

Rachael: And how are you like, nerve-wise? Are you still like a little shaky?

J.: Not great? I talked to a friend who’s sort of like a therapist in a way. And she was really helpful today, because I’ve had some like, I’ve had some physical manifestations of my anxiety. And that’s, for me, that’s pretty common. I think it happens to a lot of people. I mean, migraines are kind of like that for you, aren’t they?

Rachael: Absolutely. They’re my number one like that. It’s my body sending up a flare.

J.: Yeah. Yeah.

Rachael: Basically saying, “Fuck you. Lie down.”

J.: Yeah. So that’s, I’ve been dealing with that and started, I’ve seen like, some arthritis, joint inflammation, like gouty kind of stuff. And I’ve been dealing with it, and it hasn’t, it hasn’t been fun. But it’s, it’s clearly an indicator that, you know, the anxiety and the worry is sort of embedded in my body. And I have to, I have to kind of break that, you know.

Rachael: What are your plans? Do you have an idea of what to do with that?

J.: Yeah, I think part of it is not letting sort of the pain define me. And, you know, that’s, I think, sort of, generally speaking, that’s the case. And then there are some specific things I can do that are really just sort of generally healthy lifestyle choices, you know, like, drinking a lot of water throughout the day avoiding sugar, you know, eating fruits, fruits and vegetables. Like it’s not, it’s not rocket science. It’s not, yeah, terribly confusing.

You know, there’s a few things, especially around the writer’s retreat, stuff that I’ve never done before. And I have this, I have to, I have this very negative thought pattern where I think about how it’s going to fail. And I have to stop doing that.

Rachael: Yeah, and that’s so common.

J.: It’s really hard to because I’ve never done it before. So I, you know, like there, there are two, two or three projects in particular that are not, they’re not writing books, they’re within the writing realm, but they’re not the act of writing, that I’ve never tried before. And, that sort of unknown and that sense of, fear is, is hard to manage. What should I be really on the lookout for in the first couple of weeks, can you remember?

Rachael: Be careful of doing too much like you can hit burnout pretty fast…

J.: Yeah, I already did that one!

Rachael: Well, because you and I are both used to working very, very hard, very, very fast, in order to, in order to fit these things into our lives around the rest of our lives. And the fact that then you can do that in a 10-hour sitting every day, if you choose to, is insane. And we tend to do it until you until you burn out.

The Writer’s Well // Episode 121 // May 1, 2019

This clip is from “The Writer’s Well” podcast episode 121, first published on May 1, 2019.

In it, Rachael and I try to answer the question, “How are you doing two years out?”

With those couple years under my belt, things had changed, but not how you might expect. You get to hear the conversation I wish I’d heard before quitting my job to become a full-time author.

Rachael and I try to figure out why Year 2 of self-employment is harder than Year 1. I wonder if I’m cut out to be self-employed, a doubt that I still have.

The “90 Days to Done” class that Rachael teaches came out of a private conversation we had, and it made me happy to hear how transformative it became for her. It was one of the lightbulb moments I had, an example of my Reward and how I could bring it home to others.

I also have the realization that my true passion is in running small learning cohorts.

You’ll discover that the road back can be difficult, and you don’t know where it’s headed. You can look up to find yourself in a place you didn’t even know existed. The key is to remain opportunistic and self-aware, noting the activities that drain you versus the ones that light a fire in the belly. The joy of the journey is the discovery along the way, but you can’t experience that until you begin.


Rachael: How is it going for you? And what’s the difference between year two and your one?

J.: Well, yeah, that’s obviously I brought this question for a reason. But, I wanted to say to like I, I hope our listeners who are still in a day job, and who have aspirations of becoming full time, I hope they listen to this because I wish this was a conversation I had heard before I went full time. Because I didn’t, I don’t remember hearing it. And I think it’s important.

But I’ve heard this now from enough people that I think there’s something to it. I’ve heard, and we talked a little bit about this before, but I heard that year two is harder than year one.

Rachael: Year two for me was harder than year one.

J.: And I’ve heard that from a number of people in our situation. So, I think there’s something to it.

And I think too, like, I feel now I feel like I’m at the tipping point right now. Like year one, I was kind of…year one you don’t really know what the hell you’re doing.

Rachael: And you’re just treading water. Yeah, you’re just trying to keep your head out of the water…

J.: Yeah, you don’t even know what you don’t know. And you kind of survive or you don’t. I don’t know, like, and I felt like I kind of got through year one. I had some lucky breaks, like I think we had Zach and I had Authors on a Train. We didn’t plan for that. And that was a real gift like, because that really helped to keep my head above water in year one.

But year two, like, we had a few fiction projects that didn’t hit the way we wanted them to. And, and you know, had some things, like my dad passed away. Year two was, I had some really low moments where I was like questioning like, “Am I cut out to do this?” Like, am I maybe I maybe I’m not as independent as I thought I was. And maybe I need a salary. I had those moments of doubt.

And I think in the past few months, as I’m sort of rounding the corner now and heading into year three, I feel like especially with my author services stuff. I feel like now I have credibility to be able to help other people on this journey. I don’t know…you get it. I didn’t think I had it before.

Rachael: Do you think that goes back to trust in yourself?”

J.: Yeah, it’s because it’s exactly what you were talking about. Like, I wasn’t tracking my time. But I was definitely doubting myself a lot more. Like, “Am I doing enough? Should I…you know, should I be doing this? Should I be doing this?” And now I’m starting to breathe a little bit. I’m not exactly where I want to be yet. But I feel like I’m hitting that tipping point. And, it was something about year two. And that’s why it kind of stuck in my mind. And I was really curious to hear, you know, how year three was for you compared to year two. Which is, which is really interesting.

J.: You and I do work with clients. And that is not something that all writers have to do. But I do believe that the people who choose to do that, and the people who are good at doing it, aren’t always the same people.

And I feel like, I guess how do I say this…Three years ago, when I started working with clients, I was like, “Should I do this?” And now I know that it is one of my superpowers. I think it is one of your superpowers too – the actual ability to inspire real work from people.

And I want to mention briefly that one of the best things I’ve done this year came directly from you saying, “Hey, Rachael, you should think about this,” which is the 90 Days to Done class. Where basically the students who are in that are still in it. I was like, “You know, will they all drop out afterwards?” And they are all writing their books and finishing their books.

And like being able to help people with that is tremendous. And being confident enough to know that we are people who can do that, but also get to do that. Yeah, and I don’t want to…I feel like now I’m sounding like an ad. I’m not trying to sound like an ad. I’m trying to sound grateful that we get to do this.

J.: Yeah, I’ve really cut down on my one-to-one clients because for me, that’s really challenging. And when I work one-on-one with a client, like I’m toast after that. I give it everything I’ve got and I can’t go back to my own work. I’m just mentally tapped. So, I’m gradually moving away from that.

And I realized like building online courses is not really something…like I know there are people who sell the shit out of those and they make a ton of money and I wish I could, but like that’s not where my gift lies in either.

It’s really in working with small groups of motivated people who need help getting over a hump. Like that’s my sweet spot. And I’m getting more of those people and I’m helping more of those people. And I am still…I’m not quite there yet, but like I just can feel me shedding those activities, those client activities. Like even the editing stuff, I take very, very few editing jobs now.

Writers, Ink // Episode 113 // December 13, 2021

This clip is from the “Writers, Ink” podcast, episode 113, first published on December 13, 2021.

In this episode, I interview musician, writer, entrepreneur, and founder of CD Baby, Derek Sivers.

I found Derek’s minimalistic approach to life inspiring. He explains how he became good at writing business emails to 2 million+ customers, a skill honed while writing song lyrics as a musician—a great example of Derek’s core identity emerging in different ways throughout his life.

Derek continually asks himself an important question: “Who are my heroes?” In his words, this lets him know where he wants to be by studying and following someone on the same path.

You’ll discover that you think you can map a path to a known destination—a straight line from A to B. While that works for road trips and vacations, life doesn’t work that way. Your journey looks more like wandering tracks than a straight line to an end point. Keeping a minimalistic approach reduces distraction, keeping you focused on what matters. Identifying where you want to be is easy once you recognize others have gone first. Follow them.


J.: You have this very minimalistic style in that you make every word count. And as a writer, I can tell that you’ve revised for months or years because only what needs to be there is there.

And, I was kind of surprised, in an older interview, you said you’d never really thought of yourself as a writer of words until a few years ago. How did you manifest this sort of minimalist style in your writing?

Derek: Initially, from writing lyrics. Like, I was a songwriter for, God, how many years? 15 years? Yeah, I was a songwriter for 15 years. I wrote over 100 songs, I’d say. And so, the way that you write lyrics is usually you’ve got the melody first. And so, you know that you’ve only got six syllables because you’ve got these six notes, and you want to try to fit what you’re trying to say into those six syllables. I think I was already in that mindset, right, like, yeah, so I think songwriting is a lot of it.

But also, the marketing emails I sent out when I was running CD Baby, I learned the hard way that if you say too much, people don’t read it. If you send a ten-page-long newsletter, or even a two-page-long newsletter, people look at it quickly on their phones, and they go like, “Oh, I should read that later.” But then they don’t.

But if you can say what you need to say in three sentences, they might read it. And maybe six sentences tops, but I found that if I went like over seven or eight sentences, people wouldn’t read it. And they’d reply back to the emails saying, “Great, how do I get involved?” It’s like, “Please see sentence seven; it tells you how to get involved. It says right there in the email you’re replying to, come on!”

But because I had like about 2 million customers, if I was at all unclear, or used one too many sentences, I would get, you know, 5,000 replies, which would take hundreds of hours to reply to. So, it was, I would feel the ultimate pain for every single sentence that wasn’t necessary, or every word that was unclear, meant hundreds of hours of work, and a lot of money lost in hiring people to answer those emails if I had written one unclear word or added one unnecessary sentence.

So I guess that was probably also my boot camp training. But then it’s also this just this minimalist desire to not put anything into the world that doesn’t need to be there. You know, for the same reason we don’t dump our garbage outside. Why should we dump our unnecessary sentences into the public? I think it’s coming from that same place.

Or even if you see my house or like that, my only refrigerator is a it’s a little silent thing about this big. Sorry, what am I doing? About one meter square. Yeah, that’s my only fridge because I just like to make things as small as they can be. For most of my life, I’ve had a fridge that was full size, but sat mostly empty. And for the first time in my life, I moved into a house that had no fridge. So I had to go buy a fridge, and I’m finally gonna get a fridge that’s only what I need, and nothing more. So yeah, I guess I’m like that with my words, and clothes, and everything.

J.: And your computer code, same way?

Derek: I guess so. I mean, the fact that I spend my whole day in a programming terminal, typing out every line of code by hand, I don’t use any code generation tools. And so, there’s if you look, if you do view source on my website on, you’ll see no line of HTML code that doesn’t absolutely need to be there.

So yeah, you’re right. It’s yeah, it’s in my code, too.

Because that was an interesting thing that happened to like what you said earlier that I didn’t used to consider myself a writer. I still considered myself a programmer or an entrepreneur until I realized that all of my heroes are authors. And I found that kind of telling.

I think this is where I’m heading. I think this is where I want to be. If those are my heroes, that’s where I want to be. So I think it can be telling for all of us to ask yourself, “Who are my heroes?” And know that that’s what that’s telling you is that’s where you want to be.

Writers, Ink // Episode 163 // November 21, 2022

This clip is from the “Writers, Ink” podcast, episode 163, first published on November 21, 2022.

In this episode, I interview a former associate of infamous cybersecurity legend John McAfee, ghostwriter Alex Cody Foster.

Alex’s story had me speechless—one of the most memorable of my 1,200 podcast episodes. With brutal honesty and clarity, he shares his story of living on the streets of Los Angeles after hitchhiking across America. Alex explains how he almost died one night on Venice Beach. In his words, “The night I became a writer was the night I lost my mind.”

With his core identity obscured by trauma, Alex had to rediscover himself, traveling around the world for several years until returning to reality after four months at sea in Alaska. Through it all, Alex thought of himself as a ghost, his core identity that extended into his past and his future.

Alex reminds us that we all have a story, and that writing is one cathartic way to heal our wounds.

You’ll discover that the road back is exhilarating, but it is also fraught with danger. Predators, cheats, and thieves threaten to steal your Reward and your identity. While you can’t prevent trauma, you do get to choose how to respond to it. The secret to rediscovering your core identity can be found in your past. We all have a story we’re writing. We get to choose what happens in the next chapter.


J.: Can you talk a little bit about your experience on the streets of L.A.? What happened? What was that like? How did you get out of that?

Alex: Absolutely. Well, I was never a great student. You know, in high school, I never went to college, and I barely graduated high school because they took points off your grades past a certain amount of days that you missed, I think it was like 60. And I missed more days than any kid in my academy’s history because, you know, I just preferred to go skateboard and, you know, hang out with friends and travel. I did all the work, and I did very well at school, but they took points off all my grades. So I had a horrible GPA, I think it was like 1.7 when I graduated, so no colleges wanted me anyway.

I spent four years in my math classes just reading novels I was given by my guidance counselor when I was almost expelled from school. The first time he came in on my behalf and gave a really touching speech to the staff that wanted to fire me, not fire me, but get rid of me, saying I was a problematic kid.

So anyway, long story short, he saved my ass, and I got to stay at school. But he had me read 100 of the top 100 books of the 20th century, he gave me a piece of paper with all the titles. So that’s what I did. All four years in math class, I just read books. You know, I didn’t do the work. I just read novels.

And so anyway, I’ve always loved telling stories and somehow find myself in the middle of them all the time accidentally. And LA was no exception.

When I got out of high school, instead of going to college and learning the yellow journalism that had been force-fed to me my whole life already, I said, you know, I want to travel. I built a solar power trike. We were gonna drive it across the country to film a documentary about social and environmental change. But the trike crashed, and I was poor, so I couldn’t fix it. So I was like, you know, to hell with it. I’ll just hitchhike.

So I hitchhiked across America. And that was a crazy, harrowing experience in itself. But I ended up penniless. Actually, that’s not true. I ended up with a quarter in my pocket in Los Angeles, getting off the bus. That’s all I had, and my family really didn’t provide much support growing up. I had my brother, but that’s pretty much it.

I was just stranded, you know, I didn’t have any way to go back. So I was 19 years old. I had just turned 19. And I found myself living on the streets. And a lot of Los Angeles is very dangerous. I read a newspaper, one of the first few days I arrived that said there were 51,340 homeless people in L.A. County, which is like 15 times the size of my hometown. So yeah, I lived on the streets for several months.

I found out that the safest place to sleep was by this golf course whose sidewalk was under construction. So they had a blue tarp over it. So anytime it rained, I was protected. It was still really cold, and at night it’s awfully cold. And you know, it gets into your bones. So that’s when I realized why people use cardboard. You know, it was ingenious, it’s cheap, it’s plentiful. It’s like a sleeping mat, so it prevents the cold from getting into you.

I did that for months. And, and it was crazy. You know, I met a lot of people and people with incredible backgrounds and stories. And one day, I got kicked out of that golf course place. So I found myself sleeping on Venice Beach for a few weeks.

And that’s where everything changed. The night I became a writer was the night I lost my mind. I don’t know if I told you about this, but when I was, I was sleeping somewhat near the Santa Monica Pier, but way off to the right, you know, way off, you know, in the sand by the ocean where it was dark and I could be protected from the ATVs from the cops that would patrol the beach to arrest people like me.

And I was asleep one night, and somebody woke me up. And it was a kick to the stomach that woke me up. I thought I was dreaming. You know, but then I saw the stars and I saw the ocean and I saw this guy standing over me. And he was like, get out of sleeping bag.

I was just coming to I didn’t really realize what was going on. And he had a knife, a big like bowie knife, you know, it’s huge. And then I realized I was awake. And I got to the sleeping bag a little bit. He said, “Take off your fucking pants.” And it was this was a really well-dressed man. He looked like he’d just got out of a cocktail party, you know, and hair all slicked back, you know, handsome looking guy looked like a very well educated, powerful person, you know, like a doctor or a lawyer or something.

And that’s when shit got real, as they say, you know, that’s when I realized this is life or death, perhaps, because when I looked into this man’s eyes, there’s this vacancy of all human emotion. It was like, this wasn’t his first rodeo, you know what I mean? And I was this idealistic, innocent, naive, you know, kid, and here I was facing perhaps true evil for the first time in my life. I didn’t know what to do.

But long story short, I pretended to take off my pants. And as I was doing that, a sinking one of my hands into the sand, and it was just the most visceral experience of my life. Because I knew whatever happened, I wasn’t gonna make it to that morning, basically.

So I threw sand at the guy. And it shocked him for a minute, he was gonna, he brought up the knife, he was like, alright, nevermind, like this kid’s going away. But I tackled him. And I beat the hell out of the guy, which I hadn’t really done before. I hurt him a great deal. And I was traumatized. I grabbed my backpack, and it ran, I ran to Third and Rose, which was the homeless encampment near Lincoln Boulevard, where a lot of people that homeless would stay. It was a good community.

So I was terrified. I ran over there. And I was just trying to, I’m trying to hide, I guess, but in the end, I thought I maybe killed the guy there, there’s literal blood on my hands. And so I went back to the beach at sunrise. And I went and I thought, you know, I’m gonna turn myself in, I’m, I killed somebody, and I’m gonna have to tell the police, you know, and so I went and he was gone. There were footsteps, leading way and so that, that haunted me, you know, because for many reasons, I was out there trying to change the world, I was trying to do something, right. And that happened. And it was a wakeup call.

So I didn’t sleep for like six days. And on the six day, seventh day, sorry, I finally did sleep. But I was on top of the Wisdom Tree in the Hollywood Hills, I was looking at everything, and I just realized this world was sort of built to fail not to get dark on you here.

J.: No man, I’m not getting in the way. Keep going.

Alex: I was up on the Wisdom Tree, which is this tree on top of the mountain overlooking all of Hollywood, you know, all of Los Angeles, really. And I saw airplanes and the smog, you know, strip mall city before me and all that stuff. And I was just like, man, it’s just death death, you know, and I fell asleep that night for the first time in about a week.

And when I woke up, I was a totally different person. I had suffered some sort of mental breakdown in a dream while I was unconscious, and I woke up, literally, my vision had changed. Everything was in a fish-eye lens. I was in this perpetual fight or flight mentality. Every moment of every day. I couldn’t go out in the daytime, I was afraid of the day. I was afraid of cars and airplanes and buildings, anything that had any association with humankind, basically. So I was afraid of everything. So I had to escape L.A. and a friend that I met in L.A., he drove me all the way across America while I was out of my mind, and deposited me back in Maine, where I became a recluse for like, seven months.

Anyway, I kept trying to get back my identity. And because my ego had been shattered, nobody recognized me anymore. I wasn’t even like a person, I was a shelf of a human being. And I, in an attempt to get myself back into some modicum of sanity, I kept traveling all around the world for several years, you know, two and a half years. And ultimately, it was in the along the Inside Passage to Alaska, on a four month solo journey, that I decided, you know, I’m either going to get my sanity back, and we’re going to become a person again, or I’m not going to come back, you know.

And, remarkably, you know, I meditated every day I read “The Power of Positive Thinking,” probably 120 times. When I stepped back on land, four months after I was, you know, at sea, I looked at the airplanes and the buildings and all the people and I wasn’t afraid for the first time in two and a half years. I had like 12 grand in my pocket from the boat because I was the sole chef and deckhand and everybody, you know everything else that they needed for this couple.

I was like, you know, I’m gonna, I’m gonna write a book. I’m gonna write a memoir. I just turned 22, I think. And I don’t know, I had no business writing a damn memoir at 22. But I felt like I had. So I started writing. And it was one of the most beautiful cathartic experiences I’ve ever had. You know, because it was like, people have asked me what, what’s it like writing this book about McAfee? I think I told you this. I told them, it felt like an exorcism. And that’s what it felt like writing my first book.

J.: It’s very clear to me that writing is your therapy, right? It seems as though you need to write to be able to move past obstacles or to or to deal with trauma. Does that sound right to you?

Alex: You’re very discerning. And it’s absolutely correct. Yeah. 100%, you know, writing, I’m a ghost writer, by trade by profession. But that’s not a job at all for me. It’s a way of life. It’s, it’s just the way that I, it’s who I am, you know, it’s identity that I got, and I love it.

J.: There’s some real irony in there in that you’re claiming your identity as a ghost. Can you talk about that?

Alex: Yeah, yeah, sure. So it’s funny. The dedication page, in my book, it reads like this, “For all the ghosts, both living and dead.” So it’s sort of ironic, it’s multiple themes, you know, the subtitle of the book is, “A Ghostwriters Descent into Madness with John McAfee.”

So the ghost word here is multifaceted. It has multiple meanings. Because, for one, I’ve always been a ghost. You know, I, you know, I was the kid in high school who didn’t eat a single lunch in the lunchroom ever, because I was like, afraid of people, I was shy. So I just hang out in the library stacks and read books every lunch, you know.

And I was the kid who was a ghost on the streets of Los Angeles and met all the fellow ghosts. And I continued to be a ghost without an ego or an identity for years. And I got one. And then what did I do? I started telling ghost stories. You know, in a way, I started telling stories of people who’d had similar lives and experiences. And the biggest one of all was John McAfee who died and now he’s a ghost. In a supernatural sense, perhaps. So hopefully, I answered your question.

But yeah, the theme really is that we all have a story, and that we all are kind of a ghost in some respect, whether we’re alive or dead, whether we’re haunting the halls of some Transylvanian Castle, or we’re, you know, we’re struggling with an addiction, or with a cheating spouse, or we’re single mom, for five kids because the husband ran off, you know, or whatever the case may be, at some point in our lives, every single one of us has been a ghost or felt like one.

J.: It sounds like what you’re saying is that this this book is a rebirth for you in a way but you haven’t figured out who you want to become.

Alex: That’s entirely true. Yeah. Yeah.

Closing Thoughts

The conversations in this episode, and many of the ones I’ve had over the past 10 years, have reinforced an important concept—my core identity has always been there. The voice of my core identity is the Call to Adventure, and even though I’ve turned down that voice’s volume at times in my life, I see that I’ve never silenced it completely.

In our 40s, it’s said that our “happiness curve” is at its lowest point, which for me, was definitely true. Now that I’m on the other side, everything, including my happiness, is on the upswing, I’m going to return home with my Reward and share it with others.

Finding the Reward is never the end of the story, not even in a Hollywood blockbuster film. You have to return with it, to share what you’ve learned with others—a legacy. The way home is exciting, stimulating, and also treacherous. You’ll be tempted to step off the road, or to quit the journey entirely. However, continuing is the only way to establish or reestablish your core identity before you can return home to help others.


What values, skills, and experience have you earned that could help younger generations?

Up next…

In the next chapter of the story, we’ll define “retirement” and “legacy,” exploring how you can quit doing some things to make room for others, and examine a shift from accumulation to purpose.


Mentorship by Brian Clark, Jerod Morris, and Trudi Roth

Podcast concept by Jerod Morris

Written, narrated, and produced by J. Thorn

Editing by Miranda Weingartner and Trudi Roth

Audio editing and production by J. Thorn

“Twisted” and “RetroFuture” courtesy of Kevin MacLeod at

Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0 at