Hacking My Inner World

In my previous post, I mentioned that I was preparing for BSides Transylvania. This was my first trip alone to a foreign country where I didn’t speak the language, to a city I had never visited before. It involved a private corporate setup I had not used in this form before, leaving me uncertain about what expenses I could claim. It was an event that had never been organized before, where I had only online acquaintances, not in-person friends. Yet, the purpose was exactly that: to meet the community in person and make friends. I hope I can now call the community members my friends. :)

I also mentioned the struggle between Backy and The Professional. If you don’t recall, Backy is the whispering voice at the back of my skull, a nickname for my inner Ego, who did everything to make me fail in this challenge. The Professional represents the three personality types from the E-Myth, encompassing the entrepreneur, specialist, and the manager. However, I usually refer to it simply as The Professional because to succeed and not be overshadowed, each needs to be an expert in their field.

Backy was true to itself, constantly finding my pressure points, making me increasingly tense. However, The Professional organized the trip so well and was so curious about new opportunities that it counteracted this tendency.

On Monday, I managed to outmaneuver Backy. Every browser tab I deemed necessary for the trip was open, just waiting for me to add my orders to the cart and purchase them. Of course, Backy didn’t like this and looked for an opportunity to complicate things for me. The event was on Saturday, but to be there on time and stay for the post-event activities, I had to leave by bus on Friday and return on Sunday. There was no issue with this. Do you know the meme, “Hold my beer”? That’s pretty much how I felt during these few days.


Recently, I’ve redefined what productivity means to me, mainly due to my mental health. The essence is this: multiple personality types operate within me, each with different needs. So, I strive to do something for each of them every day to avoid feeling deficient and thereby not feel like a misfortune.

I track this with a matrix on the corner of my whiteboard, which is constantly visible. The x-axis shows the days of the week, while the y-axis lists areas vital to me, prioritized from top to bottom. Currently, I follow Health, Assignments, Professional merit, Personal activity, and Relationships. If something extraordinary happens in a day, it’s a blocker, noted at the bottom of the table. At the start of a new week, I evaluate this table and save it so I can refer back to it later… You know, in case I don’t feel productive enough and anxiety and depression try to take over.

An example of this table.

This is a form of gamification. It allows me not to think in terms of months or years (which I believe is not designed for the human brain) but in terms of days, more precisely, today. Every day, my focus is to mark as many Xs as possible. In the long run, these Xs add up, and according to the principle of compound interest, I’m sure to see a return… not necessarily in monetary terms.

Why did I write this little monologue about measuring my productivity? These are my core values, core goals and Backy systematically attacked them to discourage me from going.


“How will you meet your health goals? You’re sure to forget to take your vitamins on the trip. You’ll leave them at the accommodation and only realize on Monday that you missed them." Well, Backy almost succeeded, but wonders happen when I place important things in visible places.

“How will you stick to your diet? You know, skipping breakfast. And not many people understand or support a ketogenic diet. The accommodation certainly won’t help with that. Not to mention the event itself." You’ve misunderstood the essence. The point of my diet is to eat less frequently, ideally more filling meals, to avoid craving food.

“How will you exercise? Walking, weightlifting, rucking? You won’t have time for that. And you’ll look silly. After all, you went to a conference, not a gym." What’s good about urban environments? Everything is close. And there are choices: public transport, taxis, or… walking. A packed bag with travel gear for a few kilometers is precisely rucking.

I know I could do more for my health, but this illustrates how Backy can come up with insidious arguments.


Here, Backy had a bit of a more challenging time, as it’s difficult to argue against building professional relationships regarding potential assignments. I used to call this work for others or just simply work. But over the years, I’ve had to rethink this a bit. The reason is simple. I don’t want to work for others; I want to work with others. The result is the same, but the mental model is different.

If I work for someone, I’m at the mercy of their will. My pay depends on them, and my access is determined by them. If I do my job well, it’s just another day. If I do it poorly, or if they claim I do, I can be fired, and then it’s back to the grind.

However, if I think in terms of assignments, the project or product we’re working on is our task. We look for opportunities to expand and conquer new markets together. If we collaborate successfully, we can achieve great success. If not, the relationship still remains. Who knows, our paths might intersect again later.

But Backy still managed to throw a spanner in the works: “You won’t have internet access on the way. How will you find out if someone contacts you on LinkedIn? What if they organize an interview for you while you’re on the road? You won’t be reachable by phone." Seriously… In today’s world, where isn’t there internet? Mobile coverage is almost everywhere. And I’d like to see the HR person who is trying to arrange an interview over the weekend. That would likely be a scammer.

Speaking of Assignments

Since I’ve delved into the topic of assignments, I’m currently seeking new projects and professional connections. What do I specialize in? I often get this question. My pitch still needs work. These days, I describe myself as a geek who is interested in everything IT. My passion is to make our existence in the digital world safer. So, if you’re curious about who I am and what I do, feel free to contact me on LinkedIn or another platform.

If you think these writings discredit me, here’s a thought to ponder. If I were tasked with breaking into a system, I certainly wouldn’t start with their website, servers, or products. Instead, I’d focus on the people. Where they work, what their hobbies are, who their acquaintances are, what their habits, fears, and desires are. But I prefer to defend people, which, in turn, may help protect companies. That’s why I found the presentation by the People Hacker from Jenny Radcliffe so inspiring.

“How to beat 2 million quids security system with a pen and paper…" Her book is now on my reading list, and I’ll soon dive into it.

The question isn’t if we will be breached, but when. And when it happens, what do we do to recover? And if I, a cybersecurity professional, can write about my vulnerabilities, maybe I can help you illuminate your own. (Of course, I know… only I have such issues. :D)

Professional Goals

It’s hard to criticize a trip aimed at building professional knowledge and connections. Yet, Backy managed to do just that. My impostor syndrome soared to the point where it was a joy to watch. This was particularly evident when I met Klaus at the entrance to the event. English is not my native language, and when we started talking, I momentarily didn’t understand what he was trying to say. Then, I stumbled over my words. However, this might be because my brain needed to switch gears. But the little voice was still there.

“See! You’re not good enough. What will you do here all day? You’ll look completely foolish to your peers. Alone at a conference, while others came with company teams." Of course, this wasn’t true. I’m grateful to Klaus for dispelling my doubts, even though I don’t think he realized it. Klaus, if you are reading this, Thank you. :) (Right now, I am still in doubt about whether I should reference you or not. You know… GDPR, privacy, and so on.)

After the event, we had a small gathering in a local pub called Solas Cafe, where I talked to many participants. And I was even capable of describing The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy in English to a foreigner. So, I could say I should have been comfortable, but the little voice…

“There is no chair you can sit on. It is sooo awkward to stand next to a group. We cannot see anybody familiar. You are alone here. We should go back to the accommodation." This drove me crazy, and I had to leave earlier than I originally planned.

“Maybe if We had known more people before the gathering, then it would have been more pleasant?" Really Backy? Now you’re complaining about why We didn’t buy the VIP ticket? I chose the cheaper one because I wanted to please you.

(Now I feel like Jeff Dunham… Arguing with Myself)


This is an area I almost forgot when I created my table. But what’s the point of life if not to live for someone? The previously mentioned aspects are all to lay the foundation for the time and activities I can spend with my loved ones and friends. If I don’t take care of my health, I can’t participate in assignments or be at peace with my loved ones. Without assignments, I have no income to spend time with them, let alone enjoy that time. And, of course, if I don’t take care of myself, I won’t consider others' needs.

I intentionally brought up this point earlier because, after these, you might guess the punchline. But the excuses here were also good.

“You won’t have your loved ones with you abroad. How will you communicate with them? Better stay home with your wife. Or visit your parents, siblings. Easter is coming anyway." In the digital world, distances don’t matter. That weekend, I made more phone calls than I usually do in a month.

Of course, the digital world isn’t perfect. We can only experience it through one sense at a time, but that’s changing. I don’t think teleportation (though cool) will be available anytime soon. Instead, we’ll likely experience the digital world with all our senses at once (if we’re not already doing so in some form :) ).

Personal activities

Everyone needs some time for themselves. This is when we can relax and recharge. Once we’ve fulfilled all our obligations, we can afford to give ourselves 15 minutes… Let’s be honest, 15 minutes isn’t enough for much. That’s why I don’t just count on that amount of time. When I finish everything else, I dedicate the remaining time to myself.

For what? Whatever Backy desires. You might say this is Its time. It’s now a conscious decision. I spend time on myself every day, which I can “waste” as Its see fit. Why? If I don’t, Backy will do everything to get my attention… Or rather, divert it. As a result, I won’t have time or energy for more important things. So, I’d rather play for an hour a day or zone out watching TV with my partner than be inattentive or dismissive due to accumulated stress.

Of course, this was Its problem… A selfish little bugger, right? :D True, I couldn’t pay attention to It over the weekend, which made It quite sulky. It did everything to convince me to stay home. Hence, I felt stressed right up until departure. It got so bad that I sometimes didn’t want to get out of bed. In fact, on the day of departure, even my stomach acted up. It’s comforting to ride a bus for hours while half-looking for a rest stop. Another little trick was that It did not let me eat.

“You need to leave soon. You’ll be late. You’re eating too little. Your stomach will growl. You’re eating too much. You’ll fall asleep. You’re eating too slowly. You’ll be late. You’re eating too fast. Don’t you feel that your stomach hurts?" After all this, I’m not surprised.

Of course, after the trip, I tried to make amends. I enjoyed a nice dinner with my partner, and we watched TV. But before that, I opened a bottle of wine since, on the road, Backy managed to get by with only non-alcoholic beer. (Although It’s starting to see through this trick… I need to come up with something new for this.) And I played Borderlands for hours, alone, to relax.

Despite all the trouble it causes, I can’t blame everything on Backy, and certainly can’t suppress it. It’s part of me. And all it wants is to keep me safe, in its own peculiar way.


Why did I find it important to write about this, considering I consider myself a cybersecurity professional and a geek? This is more about mental health than information technology.

The weakest link in any system is the human element, not the other people, but ourselves.

We often forget this. We tend to see ourselves as a single entity, but that’s not the case. Different personalities dominate us in different situations.

If we don’t understand the various personalities within us, we struggle to satisfy their needs. This creates tension and a sense of lack within us. Solving any problem starts with recognizing that there is a problem. I’m not a psychiatrist or philosopher. But knowing ourselves is crucial for our own protection and that of our loved ones.

This internal tension can lead us to act rashly. We might engage in activities that are not in our best interest and potentially harmful to us. And this thought might be offensive to some, but we are nothing more than biological robots. Our performance capacity and hardware have not been updated in a while. So why do we still try to impose mentally exhausting tasks on ourselves that we are not equipped to handle?

If we don’t consider these issues, they can manifest physically. However, the reverse is also true: our physical problems can manifest mentally, thereby disadvantaging us in the digital world.

“In ancient times, those who were truly skilled in warfare made themselves invincible first and then waited for the moment when the enemy became vulnerable. Invincibility depends on ourselves, while the enemy’s vulnerability depends on the enemy. That’s why truly skilled warriors are able to make themselves invincible, but they cannot always ensure that the enemy will be vulnerable. That’s why it is said that the conditions for victory can be known but are not always attainable." Sun Tzu, Art of War

What do you think?

I’ve shared my journey, the battles with my inner self, the challenges of a solo adventure in a foreign country, and my quest for growth in both my personal and professional life. Now, I’m curious to hear about your experiences.

  • Have you ever faced similar challenges while stepping out of your comfort zone, especially in professional settings or learning environments?
  • How do you balance your personal development with your professional aspirations? Do you have any strategies or tools that help you navigate this complex terrain?
  • In the world of cybersecurity, tech, or any field you’re passionate about, how do you keep your mental health in check while pursuing excellence and continuous learning?
  • Building community and making connections can sometimes feel daunting, especially in new or unfamiliar environments. What are your thoughts on creating meaningful relationships in these contexts?
  • Lastly, the concept of “gamifying” productivity and personal growth - what are your experiences or opinions on this approach?

Your insights, stories, and discussions enrich our collective understanding and provide support to those on similar paths. Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments below or connect with me on LinkedIn. Let’s keep the conversation going and learn from each other’s journeys.