Brian Pennie

How To Grab Life By The Throat: 7 Habits That Led To The Life Of My Dreams

When reading the work of Dale Carnegie, I came across a line that slapped me square in the face —

Inaction breeds doubt and fear. Action breeds confidence and courage. If you want to conquer fear, do not sit home and think about it. Go out and get busy.

Having lost 15 years of my life to addiction, mostly through inaction and fear, it seemed like I’d nothing to lose by going in the opposite direction.

So instead of sitting at home, I followed the lead of Mr Carnegie and went out and got busy.

That was in 2014, and since then I’ve become a keynote speaker, business owner, and lecturer at the top two universities in Ireland, all while pursuing a PhD in neuroscience.

I’ve also recently acquired a book deal with a mainstream publishing house, and I’m in talks with Virgin Media (Ireland’s number one commercial broadcaster) about a TV show concerning the tactics I used to change my life.

Six years ago my life was in the gutter. But today, as a result of the 7 habits below, I’m living the life of my dreams.

1. I embraced failure

The greatest danger for most of us is not that our aim is too high and we miss it, but that it is too low and we reach it.” — Michelangelo

Are you afraid of failure? If so, you’re not the only one. Fear of failure prevents many people from taking action, and as a result, reduces their potential success in life.

The question is, can you succeed without failing? No, not unless mediocrity fulfils you. The best way to learn is through failureWhen you fail, you learn.And when you fail big, you learn big.

You might be thinking: “what about the fallout?” But the fact is, the risks will be worth it, and you can always ask for forgiveness. As Bernard Byrne, CEO of AIB once told me, Asking for forgiveness is far easier than getting permission.

2. I developed a growth mindset

“Every next level of your life will demand a different you.” — Leonardo DiCaprio

People with a fixed mindset think that their intelligence and abilities are innate, and that raw talent alone leads to success. This simply isn’t true.

People with a growth mindset know this, and invest their time and energy in developing new skills, solving new problems, acquiring new knowledge, and figuring out ways to enhance their lives.

This kind of learning compounds over time, and once embraced, the world will be your playground.

3. I stopped using reactive language

“I am, by calling, a dealer in words; and words are, of course, the most powerful drug used by mankind.” ― Rudyard Kipling

We all have a story, and this is written by the words we useIf you tell yourself you’re anxious, you’re going to act accordingly. If you tell yourself you suck, it’s likely that you will. It is, therefore, crucial that you choose your words carefully, especially when you’re talking to yourself.

Words that stop you taking action include “I can’t”“if only”, and “I must”.These should be replaced with action words such as I will”“I choose to”, and“let’s look at this another way”.

In challenging situations, you should also track the questions you ask yourself.For instance, replacing “why me?” with what can I do about this?” will instil a sense of strength, directing you towards corrective action, rather than blaming the world for your problems.

4. I stopped arguing with reality

If you argue against reality you will suffer — Byron Katie

Not every challenge can be acted upon. Sometimes you have to accept a situation for what it is. But most people don’t do this. They resist reality, agonizing over what they should have done, or what they need to do.

Next time you’re faced with a challenging situation, instead of resisting what has already occurred, accept the facts, and clarity will prevail.

However, don’t get this confused with giving up. Acceptance isn’t passive. It’s the first step towards corrective action. You might be accepting the world as it is, but this won’t diminish your desire to change it.

5. I harnessed the power of choice

If you are distressed by anything external, the pain is not due to the thing itself, but to your estimate of it; and this you have the power to revoke at any moment .” — Marcus Aurelius

One certainty in life is that bad things are going to happen, most of which are completely outside of our control. This might sound disheartening, but realizing this is a source of strength.

Why? Because we always have control over how we respond to challenging events, even extremely difficult ones.

During his 27-year prison sentence, Nelson Mandela worked under torturous conditions. But instead of letting external circumstances control his behaviour, he used meditation and reflective thinking to sharpen his mind. Holocaust survivor Viktor Frankl used similar tactics to survive the abject misery of four concentration camps.

These are extreme examples, but provide powerful demonstrations of our ability to choose. Next time you’re faced with a difficult situation, exercise the freedom of your own inner-world and take corrective action.

6. I stopped blaming others for my problems

When you blame and criticize others, you are avoiding some truth about yourself.” — Deepak Chopra

We like to blame others for our problems — that way it’s not our fault. What’s more, in the hope of diminishing responsibility, and therefore pressure to act, many people go to extraordinary lengths to rationalize why it’s not their fault.

This self-reinforcing behaviour is extremely problematic, especially when blame-oriented people get together. This confirms their sense of exemption, which often spirals out of control in the form of gossip, scaremongering, and social media rants.

The fact is, however, it takes much less energy to take responsibility for yourself. Next time you feel like blaming someone else — instead of rationalizing a way out, take time to think about how could solve the problem yourself.

7. I stopped making excuses

“It’s not about the cards you’re dealt, but how you play the hand.” ― Randy Pausch

It’s easy to make excuses — it saves you having to act — but where is that going to get you? Absolutely nowhere.

You might not have got the lucky breaks in life, but so what. This doesn’t mean you cannot make things happen.

If you want to grow — both personally and professionally — you need to stop making excuses. Successful people know this, no matter what their starting point in life.

Play your own hand, or the world will play it for you.

Your life tomorrow is defined by the choices you make today. So if you want to grab life by the throat, it’s time to go out and get busy.

When you do this, the world will be your playground.

Liked this article? Check out for similar stories, and get the FREE program I developed to make remarkable changes in my recovery from 15 years of chronic heroin addiction.


  1. Inspiring words. Needed to read this. About to make big changes in life and reading this helped my support system to get back in myself and keep going. Appreciate it and take care. -Carin Swanson
    Las Vegas, NV

    1. Delighted to hear that Carin – it’s funny how the right words can pop up from nowhere when we need them most.
      Good luck with the big changes, and thank you for the kind word.
      Take care, Brian

  2. Some of us just seem to default to dark and negative thinking and blame. The difficulty is that I also get energy from staying in this cycle. It allows me to not take ownership for my life, but to blame outside forces for my predicaments. It crazy but comfortable in a dysfunctional way.
    But as you point out, there are great rewards and energy generated by moving away from blame and taking action to change my circumstances. I’ve learned to actually cuss out that dark and negative thinking and force my self to move forward with positive behaviors. Thank you sharing all you’ve learned and identifying the benefits available to us all.

    1. Delighted to hear you’ve moved on to positive behaviours Aylward. I know what you’re saying about negative thought patterns giving you energy, but it never works in the long term. Take care, Brian

  3. Thank you for this article.
    I found it enriching, directive, and it inspires me. Thank you

      1. Sometimes I feel myself sliding away from what I’ve worked so hard to achieve
        and then “bang” I read this and I’m saying to myself get back up and move forward.
        Thanks for your words and understanding. It helps me to see myself in a different light.

  4. Its like I know this deep
    Inside but it’s extremely helpful to read your words Brian. Like a wake-up call (again) urging me to be truly Alive.
    Inspired, motivated I am stepping forward into the unknown. Thank you for your generous sharing and blessings on your journey.

  5. Excellent, excellent advice! Congratulations on changing your mindset and your life!!

  6. Great for you. I hope someday I can talk of my current situation as a past tense. Coz it really sucks.

    1. This was kind if helpful for me as I am going though similar difficult life situation and its disheartening and often discouraging. No to mention, its hard to figure out things on your own. So I tend to get lost. But these pointers seem to have guven me sime kind of clarity. Thankyou so much and I would like to understand these in depth.

  7. Wow..I really needed to read this today!
    It’s been hard for me lately and it is easy to step into that darkness when we are afraid worried and feel alone!
    You are so right when you say ‘go out and get busy’.
    It’s so easy to get in a rut when we talk negative about ourselves and our life. When we are doing something creative and work that we hopefully enjoy,it gets us out of our minds that can play tricks if we succumb to them!
    Thanks so much for the inspiration and God bless you!
    What a miracle you are~~❤

  8. Incredible to think we already know this,

    But I am reminded by my sponsor, “why do I have to do this every day?”.

    “Well, how much did you drink and drug?” He would reply! And thats all it is!

    A therapist if necessary too

    From the floor of a foreclosed house, after an apt fire, a lost relationship that took everything I owned, and a family that could only watch as I swan dove headlong into datkness, I slipped into recovery!

    Today I live on a 12 acre horse farm rescuing all types of animals, but mostly large dogs, who have in turn been rescuing me back every day! Sober is better, but it takes action, patience and tolerance.

    Get inside the herd so I don’t get picked off! Thanks for this article and good luck one day at a time!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.







Message me

    Brian Pennie