What is your favorite analogy to life

"Big Five": These tips will make you happy

John Strelecky's books inspire millions. His concept of the "Big Five for Life" is seen by many as a guide to happiness. What is the attraction of his philosophy? We met the star author for a chat.

Diving instructors, monkey keepers and leaders: it always seems to be extraordinary people that John Strelecky talks about in his books. "Do what makes you happy" is the terse message of his books, which have sold millions of times. But can the application of his philosophy even succeed as an average person?

"The challenge in our lives is to find out what makes us personally happy. If you get paid to do what you love, then of course that's the jackpot. But who says you have to start there?" Said Strelecky in conversation with Weekend. He uses his favorite analogy to explain: "If you're an accountant and love kayaking, why not try becoming an accountant in a kayaking company. Because someone is an accountant right there. Why not you?" Strelecky knows what he's talking about. His life path was not always smooth either.

His childhood dream of becoming a pilot came to an end after he had already completed his training. "From one day to the next, it was simply taken away from me," he says. An undiscovered heart defect brought his young career to an abrupt end. What followed was the picking up and Plan B - an MBA degree. "Then I backpacked through Costa Rica for a month and then traveled to Europe. That changed my life," the American looks back, visibly moved. "I've seen Italy, Rome, Venice - and I was fascinated." Strelecky had tasted blood. At 33, at the height of his career, the management consultant quit his job, sold his belongings and set out on a one-year trip around the world. After his return he wrote "The Café on the Edge of the World" in just 21 days.

Thin story, dense morality

The story is quickly read and told: a traveler ends up in a strange café due to a breakdown. There are three questions on the menu: Why are you here? Are you afraid of death? Do you live a full life? He will now spend the night here and get to the bottom of the big questions in his life together with the waitress, the cook and a guest. What sounds simple is also written in exactly the same way. Friends of literary sophistication will find it more than once uncomfortable to read it.

But: Despite all the linguistic and technical simplicity, the questions Strelecky confronts readers with in his first novel are not simple. They should become aware of nothing less than the "purpose of their own existence" (ZDE) - or the meaning of life. With the message that this (meaning) is a highly individual matter, the star author has hit the nerve of the times.

"The Big Five - What really counts in life" was particularly well received in German-speaking countries. The idea of ​​the Big Five came to Strelecky in Africa. The success of safaris is measured by how many animals of the "Big Five" one has seen. As applied to our lives, there are those five things "that we would like to do, see or experience before we die," writes Strelecky. "If we did, saw or experienced these five things before we died, at the end of our lives we can look back and say to ourselves that we have achieved our Big Five for Life and that our lives have therefore been successful." The highlight: Success is defined by us, for us individually.

As a result, the Big Five don't just have to be about work. Anything you like is allowed. Whether it's lifelong learning, your own pop song or the perfect spaghetti Bolognese: the big five don't have to be that big from the outside. The only thing that matters is the importance you attach to them yourself. "Maybe your big thing is reading to children in the district library once a week," explains Strelecky. "Compared to Steve Jobs and Apple, many might say that it wouldn't be anything special. I disagree. If that's your thing, then it makes it special," Strelecky is convinced: "If you fill your life with what is really important to you, you will go to bed satisfied every night. And wake up with a smile. "

How to find your big five

  • Straight through: "I disappeared from the scene for a year and traveled the world as a backpacker," says John Strelecky. "But this is not the way for everyone. In principle, everyone can sit down at home and ask themselves a series of questions."
  • The strenght is to be found in serenity: "To do this, break away from everyday life and turn off your cell phone," advises Strelecky. "This is the only way your mind can come to the necessary rest." Also taboo: headphones and music. On the other hand, a walk in nature can be helpful.
  • The questions: "The big questions like what makes me happy? Or why am I here? You can basically ask yourself anytime and anywhere - if you allow yourself to give yourself an honest answer," says Strelecky.
  • Get feedback: "It can help to talk to a friend," says the author. Important: Allow vulnerability and allow space for honest answers. For example, ask: "When was the last time you saw me happy and when did you see me unhappy?"

John Strelecky in the weekend talk

His books inspire millions. Star author John Strelecky (49) talks to us about the courage to set out, the happiness of doing what you love, and reveals how you can find your "Big Five" through your own mortality.

Weekend: At 33 you quit your job, sold everything and went traveling. How did you find the courage to just set off?

John Strelecky: When I was 28 I traveled for the first time for a few weeks. As a management consultant, I quickly realized where I would end up in ten years - and that was not the life I imagined. I wish to see the world. Ultimately, I found the courage because I didn't want to stay where I was.

Weekend: In the end, the desire to leave was greater than the fear?

John Strelecky: Yes, absolutely. I remember writing in my diary about a week after leaving: "Before I left, there were 1,000 reasons that none of this made sense. Now that I'm on the road, not a single one is valid."

Weekend: Your trip was life changing. When did you first think: "Wow, that changes everything!"?

John Strelecky: I met a young diving instructor on the way. She always taught for a while, saved up and then traveled to the next dream beach for six weeks. When I met her, she had been on the road for five years. This period painted a completely new picture for me. And she was actually being paid for something she was passionate about doing. That was incredibly eye-opening.

Weekend: But she was also a diving instructor. How can people do that with a more mundane job?

John Strelecky: Not everyone's calling is to be a diving instructor. Part of the challenge in our life is figuring out what makes us personally happy.

Weekend: Some people are happy to see series on Netflix and on TV.

John Strelecky: If that's what you love, then that's perfect. But I also believe that some of them just cover up a feeling of dissatisfaction. That's why I used to go to bars every Friday and Saturday. That, too, was a way of numbing the pain. There's absolutely nothing wrong with doing it if it's your thing. But if it's just a means of hiding what else is painful in your life, allow yourself to ask, "What wouldn't be painful?" For example, you may discover that you loved playing soccer as a kid. Why not find a club and play once a week? Start with something small. Once started, you can always create something better for yourself.

Weekend: Do you have a tip for our readers on how to find their Big Five?