Welcome to Bulldog Mindset
Hello there. I'm John Sonmez the founder of Bulldog Mindset.
If you want to grow as a person and maximize your potential in life, you've definitely come to the right place.
Bulldog Mindset is about TRANSFORMING YOURSELF; Completely, inside and out—see my pictures below.
My mission in life is to become the best version of myself possible, by pushing myself beyond my comfort zone, confronting my limiting beliefs, and achieving the ultimate freedom in life—true self-sovereignty, or the ability to manifest one's will upon their life.
If you are new to this site and to the Bulldog Mindset YouTube channel, you might want to start off by reading this post about What Is The Bulldog Mindset?
You'll find many similarities with Stoic Philosophy and you'll also find that the Bulldog Mindset is the EXACT OPPOSITE of the victim mindset that is so common in society at large today.
A bit about me…
You are probably wondering who I am and why you should listen to me.
Good question, you shouldn't just adopt a life philosophy without much careful thought and contemplation and you should have a good idea of what the credentials are of any person tell you how to get “success” in any area of your life.
I started out life a much different track than the one I am on now.
I don't have some huge sob story about how my Dad was abusive or how I lived on the streets begging for money.
That kind of adversity usually either breeds complete failure or a definite escape, because it forces your hand.
Instead, I lived in a much more dangerous place—for the mind at least—at prison of my own making.
I had a mediocre childhood.
I had a good family, no real hardships, no real tests or trials to go through.
But, I was a very shy, introverted, dorky, self-conscious, unathletic, apologetic and weak child.
Don't get me wrong, I was kind-hearted and well-meaning, but in this world, that doesn't really count for much.
Things didn't change much as I got older—in many regards I got worse.
I grew up, but I didn't know how to become a man. I was simply an older boy.
I became a software developer and had some success in that profession, but something was missing. I was just going through the motions of life, living my life like everyone else. There was no spark—no fire.
I lived my life in fear. The fear grew. It expanded and filled many areas of my life.
I developed a fear of flying, of roller coasters, even the dark. I was afraid of losing what I built, afraid I wasn't good enough, afraid I could never be worthy of love. I was afraid of people, of women in particular. Life scared me. Death scared me more.
I had gotten in shape and became somewhat of an athlete in high school, but I only did it for validation and the approval of others, so soon that faded and I became fat, unkempt and ugly. Since my worth was based on what others thought of me, not what I thought of myself, I lacked self-respect.
I finally reached a point in my life where I had had enough.
I was sick of what I had become. I was disgusted with my life and my failures. Even though most people would have considered me successful, I knew I was not living up to my potential.
I knew I was a weak, fat, lazy coward.
I knew in my heart of hearts that I was meant for much more than that.
So, the journey began…
The funny thing about transformations is that they don't happen all at once; they happen in stages.
Sometimes things change drastically overnight, but other things take time to change and change imperceptibly, little by little.
For me it started with finally getting in shape and losing weight.
I started exercising regularly, getting back to going to the gym, running, eating healthy.
As the weight came off and my physique improved, my confidence grew.
Next, I realized that I needed to stop being lazy and giving up on things when I got bored of them or lost my motivation. I committed to becoming a finisher and finishing everything I started in life.
This started with a simple Android app I created and published to the app store, next came my first blog and what is now my other company, Simple Programmer, then came a series of Pluralsight courses, podcasts, and later many other projects, including two best-selling books: Soft Skills the Software Developer's Life Manual and The Complete Software Developer's Career Guide.
Becoming a finisher had a profound impact on my life.
All these half-finished projects and wasted effort, were a thing of a past. I was taking life by the balls and kicking ass. I was no longer a lazy procrastinator, but a highly prolific writer and producer.
My software development career took off.
I made a large amount of money from real estate investments, my Pluralsight courses and my fledgling Simple Programmer blog (which was now a business.)
In fact, I was doing so well financially at this point that I achieved my life dream of retiring young at the age of 33.
I would never have to work again if I didn't want to. I was finally FREE.
The price of freedom
Again, by the world's standards I was successful.
I had become a millionaire. I had enough passive income that I'd never have to work another day in my life.
I was a famous software developer who had been on hundreds of podcasts and had written a best-selling book.
I was even in pretty damn good shape—not quite six-pack abs—but I was looking pretty good.
So, I did what anyone would do and I headed to the beach to live out the rest of my life, living in the sunshine and waves, drinking exotic drinks by day and playing video games by night.
And at that point I was closer to suicide than I had ever been.
Don't get me wrong. I had no intention of killing myself—I would never make that choice no matter how bad I thought life was—but, I was sad, full of despair and melancholy, for no perceivable good reason.
But there was a good reason—I just didn't know it.
I was still not living up to my potential and I lacked purpose.
I didn't really know who I was. I wasn't really on the path to real true self discovery and growth. I had made money. I had had some success, but I was only scratching the surface of what I was capable of and even though outwardly I had success, inwardly I was still needy, starving for validation and approval and weak. I was not a man. I was not a Bulldog.
See what I didn't realize at the time was that freedom has a price.
When you stop the hustle and the bustle or waking up and clocking in at that 9 to 5; when you don't have to be anywhere or DO anything; when you actually have time to consider your place and purpose in the universe and the pointlessness of it all, because you aren't distracted by the urgency of life, you are forced confront the most difficult questions in life.
You are forced to go deep and examine yourself and see what you truly are and to question it all.
It's a dark place that not many people go and not many people return from.
You've always wondered why a rockstar or famous celebrity, who had it all decided to end their own life—this is why.
Stoic philosophy, new aged bullshit, Tony Robbins and the law of attraction
When I was in Hawaii, living on the beach, I came across an interesting book, by Ryan Holiday called “The Obstacle is the Way.“
This book first introduced me to the concept of stoic philosophy, and ancient Roman philosophy which teaches the idea of building internal strength and resilience to the point of being unaffected by the things outside of our control in life.
This book and idea, along with a few other personal development books I was reading at the time like Psychocybernetics, Think and Grow Rich, and The Power of Now, started to shift my focus from what I could accomplish or gain to what I could become.
It was a gradual shift, but I started moving more and more into the direction of what I now call the Bulldog Mindset.
I stopped believing that life's circumstances dictated my situation. I stopped believing that the universe or world or anyone had ever done me wrong. I began to stop worrying about things that were outside of my control and I began to realize that I had the power to decide how to interpret any event in my life.
(Victor Frankel's excellent book, Man's Search for Meaning, helped me to discover that last truth.)
I was slowly becoming one of those crazy “new-age-bullshit-believing” people. I was starting to believe in all kinds of ridiculous concepts like the law of attraction or the idea that everything in the universe is one.
But, these beliefs were benefiting my life. Not only was I becoming stronger, less dependent on the approval of others, more resilient and even more successful in business and life, but I was beginning to feel more than just happy. I was beginning to feel fulfilled. I was beginning to feel like my life had real purpose and meaning and that I was living out that purpose.
That's about the time I discovered Tony Robbins.
I had heard of Tony Robbins, but I always thought he was some ridiculous whack-job who sold people snake oil. But, having become a much more open-minded person, I decided to read one of the books of his that many people say changed their lives. I read through Awaken the Giant Within and I was impressed.
I expected the book to be filled with a bunch of feelgood mumbo jumbo, but instead it has some real practical psychology about what makes us who we are and do what we do.
I ended up doing something I never ever thought I'd do in my life and I paid over $5,000 to go to Tony Robbin's biggest seminar, Date With Destiny.
I almost left the first day, because instead of a class on self-development, it was a bunch of people dancing around and giving each other hugs. I really was wondering how many of these people “drank the Kool-aid.”
But, I'm glad I stayed, because that event changed the course of my life.
My life was already changing, but most of the changes had not yet come to the surface. This was the event that boiled over what was stirring inside me.
When I came back from Date With Destiny, I came back a changed man. You might even say that I started to BECOME a man really for the first time.
That seminar had forced me to take a real honest assessment of myself. It forced me to face some harsh realities and decide who I really was and who I wanted to become.
Setting boundaries, facing fears and living free
One of the most important concepts I learned from Date With Destiny was what true masculinity was—what it meant to be a man.
I really didn't understand this concept before, so I started researching it more and more. I read books like:
And as many books about the topic as I could find. I began to realize that one was not simply a man by virtue of growing up as a boy and reaching a certain age. I began to realize one had to become a man, by facing his fears, stepping into the darkness and lighting a spark deep within himself.
That spark was lit… and a fire grew.
I began to change the way I interacted with people.
I realized that I was constantly disappointed in life because I would put expectations on people's behavior. I would try and control how people acted towards me and be upset when they mistreated me, betrayed me or didn't give me the proper appreciation and love that I thought I deserved.
I also realized that I would allow people to put expectations on me. I would let people make me feel guilty and cajole me into doing things I didn't want to do because of the guilt or a feeling of obligation.
I made a resolution to myself that I would no longer be bound by these chains. I would no longer care what other people did or how they acted—they were free to do anything they wanted and I would demand nothing of them and have no expectations of their behavior.
At the same time, I also made a resolution that I would likewise not be bound by any obligations or expectations of anyone besides myself. I decided that I would cut anyone out of my life who attempted to guilt me into submission or tried to bind me with obligations.
For the first time in my life, I was truly free.
For the first time in my life, I no longer worried what other people did. I stopped feeling anger, resentment, jealousy, bitterness and all the other emotions connected with obligation and expectation.
I was a new man. I was becoming a real man.
There was still one major demon I needed to tackle in my life though…
When I got back from Date With Destiny, one of the first things I did was to shave my head as a reminder to my commitments to stop living life with caution and fear and to go all in with everything I had.
One of the most powerful things Tony Robbins said at Date With Destiny—which sticks with me even today—is:
“The quality of your life is in direct proportion to the amount of uncertainty you can comfortably live with.”
I will living my life in such a way where I was trying to create to fortress of certainty.
Financially, emotionally, physically, mentally, I sought out more than anything certainty and comfort. The whole reason I wanted to retire young was to be financially secure and to be able to finally take a rest and relax.
My relationships were equally based on certainty. I behaved in such a way to be accepted by people or to please them because I didn't want to risk losing them or losing favor with them. I wanted the certainty of love, which I didn't realize I could only get from myself.
My new philosophy became “embrace uncertainty”—to take risk.
My new philosophy—and the most potent of my philosophies today—became to live my life to the fullest, not hold back and I will accept whatever consequences that come as a result.
Instead of fearing uncertainty, I welcome it.
Instead of avoiding fear and trying to dispel it, I found the higher virtue of courage.
I realized that a life lived in fear was not a life at all.
One by one, I began to tackle all of my fears.
I was afraid to fly on airplanes, so instead of trying to avoid the fear or conquer it, I simply embraced it, chose to have courage instead and said to myself “if I die, I die, but I will refuse to go throughout life without living.”
In the next few years I took dozens of airplane trips all over the world. I visited places I had never thought I'd get to see. The courage I was building quickly vanquished the fear.
I decided to go to the scariest roller coasters and rides I could find—the ones that always terrified me as both a kid and adult—and I went on them all. I was afraid, but it didn't matter. I didn't try and run away or hide from the fear, I confronted it.
I repeated this with every fear in my life, from social anxiety to getting punched in the face.
I took huge risks, personally, emotionally, spiritually, physically, in relationships, even financially. I didn't always win, but I always survived and eventually came out on top.
I began to realize the power of courage.
I began to realize that I could endure pain and suffering, that I could endure hunger, emotional trauma, depression, anxiety, embarrassment.
I specifically began to train my body and my mind to face all of those trial and more.
Becoming a beast
I upped my physical training and discipline to insane levels.
Every since my first changes, I was lifting regularly and running, but it was a very basic workout routine.
I started running longer and longer distances.
I started intermittent fasting and then I eventually starting fasting all day long and only eating once a day and sometimes once every two days.
I upped my lifting to punishing 2-hour whole body workouts.
I ran a half-marathon, then another, and another and eventually starting running full marathons.
I started doing Muay Thai training 3 times a week and pushed myself as hard as I could at every class.
My usual week became fasting every day, running 40+ miles per week, doing Muay Thai and training hard in the gym.
I was in the best shape of my life. I had learned to conquer my body. I had developed the discipline to force myself to do what seemed impossible—all without drugs or performance enhancing substances. Pure will and determination.
On my long runs I started listening to audio books, cranking through 60+ books a year on 3x speed.
I studied philosophy, religion, business, psychology, and human behavior.
I read books on mental toughness, resilience, discipline and willpower.
I dug deep into my own psychology. I questioned my beliefs. I forced myself to look clearly in the mirror and see my faults.
I looked for my demons wherever I could find them.
Was I still afraid of something? Was I making excuses? Justifying or rationalizing my behavior?
I taught myself to feel emotion without being controlled by emotion.
I changed my psychology and my inner talk. What other people said or thought or did no longer had power over me.
I no longer sought out external validation. Instead, I valued my own view of myself higher than anyone else's judgement. I stopped caring what other people thought and I started caring about what I thought.
Join me on this journey…
And that is my journey, but my journey is not over—it continues forever.
I transformed myself in many ways. I've become mentally, physically and emotionally strong and resilient—and developed from this process of self-immolation what I now call the Bulldog Mindset.
There's a great Rumi quote that goes:
“Keep breaking your heart until it opens.”
That is our quest.
Our quest a Bulldogs is to keep willingly putting our hands into the fire.
To learn and develop ourselves by willingly subjecting ourselves to pain and discomfort, because through pain and discomfort comes growth—rebirth.
I'm far from perfect. I have a long way to go, but I will guide you on the path I've already taken.
I've been there.
I've been lazy. I've been rejected, needy, lost, depressed, anxious. I've felt the sting of failure. I know what it is to not be good enough. I know the pain of rejection and what it is to question one's beliefs and very existence.
I've felt the tears of victory and defeat. I've stood in the hurricane wind and watching everything I held valuable be swept away in the howling winds.
And there is still more to come—much more.
If you are ready to change your life, join me
Are you tired of the mediocre life?
Are you tired of feeling like you haven't even come close to reaching the potential that is inside of you?
Are you tired of the pain of not feeling good enough, of seeking validation from others and not getting it?
Are you sick of negative emotions and rejection? Living your life in reaction to other people and circumstances, instead of charging forward in your own direction?
Then, join me on this quest.
Become a Bulldog.
Become part of the pack.
You can start by taking this Bulldog Quiz and finding out where you are right now.
Are You a Bulldog?
Take this free quiz to find out what your score is...
Ready to become a Bulldog right now and join me and my fellow Bulldogs on our quest to become the best possible version of ourselves and conquer life?