Everything Harder Than Everyone Else

There is a part of human nature compelled to test our own limits. But what happens when this part comes to define us?

When Jenny Valentish wrote a memoir about addiction in 2017, she noticed that people who treated drug-taking like an Olympic sport – forcing their bodies to the edge with an all-or-nothing commitment – would often hurl themselves into a pursuit like marathon running upon giving up. What stayed constant was the need to push their boundaries.

Everything Harder Than Everyone Else is a new book about people willing to do the things that most others couldn’t, wouldn’t or shouldn’t. By delving into their extreme behaviour, there’s a lot that us mere mortals can learn about the human condition.

There’s the neuroscientist continuously violating his brain to override his disgust response. The strongman champ using her childhood adversity as grist for the mill. The hardcore wrestler turning natural-born agitation into curated ultraviolence. The architect hanging from hooks in her flesh at weekends, to better get out of her head. The performance artist seeking erasure by testing the limits of his body. The ultrarunner who draws parallels between his current pursuit and his former life smoking crack. The BDSM dom helping people flirt with death in order to feel more alive. The ballet dancer who could not separate her identity from her practice until at death’s door. The bare-knuckle boxer whose gnarliest opponent is her ego. The bodybuilder who structures every second of her day, bringing order to what was once chaos. And the porn star-turned-MMA fighter for whom sex and violence are two sides of the same coin.

Woven through the tales of these outliers are themes familiar to all of us, but bombastically amplified: sensation seeking and euphoria chasing; compartmentalising and the development of double lives; humble mastery vs the need for validation; deathwish vs catharsis; retirement and reinvention; and that fine line between pleasure and pain. Jenny’s fascination with their insights leads to her own compulsive, sometimes reckless journey of immersion journalism.

Darkly funny and vividly penetrating, Everything Harder Than Everyone Else explores our deeper selves and asks: what are your limits?