Today, I’m interviewing another person, whom I greatly admire. Introducing …
Name: Colin Wright
Normally Found At: Exile Lifestyle
Why should I read what he has to say: Colin is one of those people that you just want to be like. He’s young but runs various businesses. He’s a globe trekker, moving around the world every few months. Even more, he lets his readers pick his next destination without any pressure from him. He’s got a thirst for life and experiencing as much as possible. A truly inspiring guy.
NLG: Hi Colin, thanks for taking the time to speak to us. Can you please tell us a little about yourself and your journey from average dude to heavyweight, globe trotting blogger?
CW: Hi, my name’s Colin Wright, I recently turned 27 and am an author, entrepreneur, and full-time traveler.
I move to a new country every 4 months, and the countries I move to are voted on by my readership. While on the road, I do my best to learn about local cultures, meet interesting people, and undertake new adventures and experiences. I live like a local as much as possible, eschewing touristy stuff and aiming instead for spots that I generally stand out like a sore thumb, in an effort to see the reality of a place, rather than the whitewashed version tourism boards want foreigners to see.
I write about my adventures on the road and about entrepreneurship, business in general, and branding (a field I was working in before I started traveling full time, and still consult on with some of my older clients).
Haha, you know, there wasn’t much of a transition to take place. Most heavyweight bloggers I know are just average dudes or dudettes; the only difference is that they do what they’re passionate about and have an audience following along as they do it. You could say the same about me: I’ve been pursuing my passions for a long time, and when I started writing about it, people liked what I had to say. There are a lot of other details people will tell you are important in building a successful platform (like a blog), but that’s all icing on the cake. The cake is being yourself, and the most epic and honest version of yourself you can be.
NLG: Wow! That’s mental. It must be scary letting others dictate how your life is going to develop. How did you find the courage to take control of your life in the first place though?
CW: It was kind of a rational decision, actually, not an emotional one requiring too much courage. I realized that I have a very finite amount of time with which to achieve everything I want to achieve, and experience everything I want to experience. This was in my late teens. Shortly thereafter I got passionate about design, started up a business, then another, then moved to LA, where I worked for someone else for a year before starting up another business. Each step made perfect sense at the time, and even though there were risks involved with those steps, if I hadn’t taken the opportunities as they arrived (and worked hard to create or earn those opportunities head of time), what would I have done with myself? Something easy but unfulfilled? To me, that would have been the greater risk, and required more (terribly misguided) courage! To live a life of inane mundanity. Can’t do it.
NLG: That’s inspiring man. I bet the start was scary though. How did you remain convicted and continue on, even when things were going against you or you weren’t making any money?
CW: Twice in my life so far have I been so poor that I stopped eating for days at a time, because I couldn’t afford to. Both times I had taken big risks, and learned something from the experience. I actually look back at those times somewhat fondly (strange as that sounds), because it’s when you’re at your lowest point that you can climb a great distance straight up the fastest. Once you’re higher up, each foot you move takes massive amounts of time and effort, but when you’re at the bottom of a pit? A little effort will get you far, a lot of effort will catapult you right back out.
I also take the time to realize that failure is just a step on the way to success. I didn’t know this the first time I had an epic failure, of course, but if you look at failures as learning experiences, not permanent scars on your reputation, you’ll be golden. What can stop you then? Nothing. You’ll come back stronger after each and every setback.
NLG: You stopped eating for days?? That’s conviction! Obviously, those times were a mere step back and things got better. What was your turning point when the success started?
CW: I had a few success milestones that stand out in my mind. The first was when I started my first business at age 19, and it went incredibly well (for a while, anyway)! I didn’t really know what I was doing, but I had good ideas and that was enough to get me going. I felt fantastic, and even after that business collapsed and I realized just how ill-prepared I was (which taught me a lot of lessons for my next business), I still smiled every time I thought about how that all went down.The second was when I quit the job I took right out of college in Los Angeles, and started up my own studio. I had no clients and my ex-employer tried to screw me over (saw me as competition, apparently), so I was starting from scratch. Within a handful of months, I was earning six-figures and had a great reputation all over the city. The branding studio that emerged from my work is what allowed me to pay off my debts and think about doing what I do now. I worked my ass off (120 hour weeks, in some cases), but the effort was worth it, and I still remember how invigorated I felt the whole time.
NLG: For most people, a business failing at such an early age, would have scared them into a mediocre life, not something to learn from! I bet you encountered a lot of success as well as step backs along the road to where you are now. Can you tell me about your biggest failure and success, if you learned anything from them and how do you think they helped you to better things?
CW: Mentioned the failure and success above, but I can elaborate on that first one, which was both failure AND success.
I started up a magazine called ‘Stim’ when I was 19. I had been doing design work for a local glossy magazine, and though I liked the guy I was working for, his methods were archaic, and he wasn’t doing anything innovative to compete with the larger glossy in town that was playing in the same space. I told him my ideas, he ignored them and told me I was too young, so I quit and started up my own mag.
It actually didn’t take more than a few months to get the first issue out, but I had to get together a team to help out, get advertisers, figure out how the industry worked traditionally, and then try to innovate upon that. We had a launch event that was a combination concert/fashion show, and as those bands played on the catwalk, then local designers showed off their new lines, I felt like I had arrived. The local media went gaga over it, and I was suddenly ‘known.’
A few issues later, the business was bankrupt, I’d lost most of my advertisers, and my huge event to launch the new magazine — my biggest yet — was rained out, and I didn’t have a plan B. A lot of money was lost, and not all of it mine. My name, which had been worth a lot for a while there, was suddenly worth nothing. Maybe less than nothing. I had failed a lot of people, and all I wanted to do was crawl into a corner somewhere and never be seen again. It really, really sucked.
But I took a lot away from that experience. First, it took me off my high-horse and made me realize that I would have to really apply myself and learn new things if I wanted to succeed…success would not always come easily, and I got lucky with those first few issues. Second, I learned that I COULD do amazing things if I tried, and even if they failed sometimes, it wasn’t the end of the world. I was still alive, and I was still the guy that made the great things happen. Finally, I learned a whole lot about working with people and running a business. I’ve been an introvert most of my life, and I’ve had to really teach myself how to work in groups well. Running a business (especially something as social and group-intensive as a magazine) made me break out of my shell in a new way, and I’m glad it happened.
NLG: Damn! That was a big hit at such an early age but its amazing to see someone so young, take it for what it really was, a learning experience. Moving away from the business side of things, what on earth inspired you to let other people pick where you live?
CW: Frankly, I had never left the US until I started traveling full-time. I figured anyone else, anywhere, would know better where I should go. It seemed like a great way to get people involved, sure, but mostly it was the result of me having no idea where to go. I want to go everywhere! This way, I get to hear what’s great about all these cool places all around the world, and even better, I usually have contacts to chat with before I arrive, so I don’t walk in totally blind (though that can be fun sometimes, too).
NLG: A very good point. If you don’t know where to go, you should ask. you’re the new poster boy for guys, when their girlfriends tell them off and say ‘men, they never ask for directions!’. Apart from some awesome sites, what are the main 3 things that you have learnt from traveling?
CW: I’ve learned way more than three, but the top ones are probably:
1. We’re all essentially the same, we’re just divided by arbitrary lines in the sand and titles applied by people hoping to keep us from realizing that.
2. People everywhere are, essentially, good. People will do bad things, but most people would rather not.
3. Travel is as a lifestyle choice is ideal for super-fast personal evolution. When there’s no one, and no habits, in place to keep you doing the same things over and over again, you’re free to always be integrating what you’ve learned into your life and way of thinking. I’ve grown more in each of the past 3 years (since I started traveling) than in the prior 24 combined.
NLG: That’s one of my regrets in life, is that I’ve not done much travelling and saw as much of the world as I wanted to. Can you tell me a bit more about how the travelling has shaped your view of yourself and the world in general?
CW: I’m much more aware of my place in the world; how I fit into it, and how I can influence it. I’m also far more aware of where my opinions and biases stem from. Meeting other people who are just as smart or smarter than you, but who also hold entirely different opinions from you, make you realize pretty quickly that our differences are mostly about environment, not because one group of people are superior or inferior to others.
NLG: Very true. A lot of biases come from people who have never experienced the alternative. Switching back to business. You have so many ventures going at once. How do you cope with the pressure of living in a foreign country and running multiple businesses?
CW: Honestly, without a lot of stuff going on, I get bored. I also get a little tense, feeling like a great opportunity might be passing me by while I sit on my hands.
I mostly just maintain a lifestyle that is very integrated with my work. I don’t have a work/life balance, because they are one in the same. I’m always working and always on vacation. I’ve had a lot of people tell me they don’t know how I manage to get so much done and work so hard, but I have more free time than anyone I know because of how I approach this. It probably wouldn’t work for everyone, and you have to be doing stuff you don’t mind thinking about and talking about all the time, but that’s the kind of stuff I work on, so it’s copacetic.
NLG: I suppose in a way it goes back to the old cliche, do what your passionate about. If you love what you do, it’s not really work. You must adopt some dynamic strategies when working in this type of lifestyle. What techniques do you employ for mobile living and yet still making money?
CW: All kinds, I’m sure. I’m big on personal efficiency, though not to an extreme. Extremes, in general, detract from your enjoyment of all life has to offer. Be dogmatic about nothing, if you can.
I do most of my work online, I do all of my banking and taxes and such online. I use a lot of cloud-based services to make sure my work isn’t tethered to just one machine. I sometimes use 30-minute chunks of time to organize my day, but only when I’m hunkering down to get something done (like a book I want to finish soon). Otherwise, I just make sure to always be churning away at something while still making sure to have an exciting lifestyle. If I ever find myself falling too far toward one extreme or another, I reassess and adjust my habits accordingly.
* Editor Note, for Colin’s latest book see – http://www.amazon.com/
NLG: I’ve used a similar strategy but I use 1hour blocks to do various tasks. I suppose its a case of trying everything to see what works for you.
Obviously, a worry when your travelling is what to do with your stuff. Yet, you’ve hit apon a great solution! Own hardly anything! You’re famous for your approach to life where you only live with a small number of things (is it still 50?) at one time – can you tell me how this decision came about and how has it shaped your life? Why do you think minimalism should be adopted by others?
CW: I’ve got around 60 possessions at the moment, and yeah, it’s strangely one of those things that people lock onto, even though it’s a fairly small part of my lifestyle.
This is ostensibly an aspect of Minimalism that I’ve embraced, though to be honest, I didn’t even know what Minimalism was until I landed in Argentina and counted how many things I had brought with me (72, at the time). People like numbers and factoids, though, so I guess it made a good story to get people interested in the other things I was up to.
Minimalism, to me, is not about owning as few things as possible, but rather owning only things that make you happy and allow you to more easily do things that make you happy. Anything else is just holding you back, so you cut that stuff out of your life, and generally as a result are a lot less burdened, happier, and have more time, energy, and resources to spend on the things that you’re passionate about.
I don’t think Minimalism is for everyone. Some people LOVE owning as much stuff as possible, and in that case, I say they should. You’ve got 70-120 or so years to live, so do what you can to enjoy as many of those years as possible, and screw anyone who tells you otherwise (so long as you’re not disallowing others to pursue the same happiness as a result, of course…I’m not encouraging anyone to become a serial killer or purse-snatched as a means of pursuing their happiness, here).
NLG: I used to hoard a lot of crap and then I found your site. I thought you were mental! Back then, I could have never parted with stuff to get to a 1000 things, never mind 100! Yet with time and age, it happens as you realise what is important to you and what isn’t.
Talking of personal opinion. I formerly ran a site looking at Alpha Males in entertainment. What is your take on the concept of Alpha Males? How would you identify one?
CW: I’m actually not too keen on the concept of the Alpha Male, as it seems to imply that society is a zero-sum game, and that one guy will be on top, while the others are sub-standard in comparison. I do think it’s important that a person takes time to get to know themselves intimately, and once they have a solid idea of who they are and what they want out of life, to pursue what they want the best way they can, while adhering to the ethical standards established by their morality.
What most people see as ‘Alpha’ is really just being confident, and confidence stems from knowing that you’re doing right by your own morality and goals, not because someone else looks up to you, or wants to be you, or thinks you’re the head of the pack (the latter, especially, is usually a sign of someone who isn’t confident, but arrogant, and has to shout the loudest to try and prove their superiority; people who are really in control of their lives don’t have to shout or make anyone else feel inferior, because they know they are doing well by themselves).
The most confident people I know all share the characteristic of humility: the more you know about yourself, the more you know how much you don’t know. As a result, you’ll be confident in your actions and direction, but won’t brag or try to compare yourself to anyone else, because you’re also aware of how much you still have to learn.
NLG: The reverse of an Alpha Male was a Beta or Omega male. Using this viewpoint, why do you think guys tend to stick to being Beta (often thought of as weak) males instead of chasing success?
CW: Again, not too keen on the title. Some people that would likely fall into that category are not weak, but merely quiet, not wanting to compete in the verbal or physical cock-comparing that often takes place between guys. Those silent ‘Betas’ then go on to become billionaires while their preening counterparts continue to be the ‘Alphas’ of their small group of mid-level executives or whatnot.
Why do guys not pursue their ideal lifestyles and maintain a safe status quo? Probably fear of taking risks. We’re sold a story by society from a very young age, and if we deviate from that storyline (go to school, get a safe job, get married, have kids, die), we have little information to go on. Few paths to follow. Blazing a trail is neither safe (there are snakes! and bears!) nor well-documented, so it’s actually kind of smart not to do so. Some people can’t help it, though, myself included. It’s foolhardy at times, but for me and many other people, there’s no other option that will make us happy. Anyone else can do the same, but I don’t think everyone has that same drive that will accept no substitute, so ‘Beta’ing is easier.
NLG: Also, who do you look up to in entertainment or in real life that inspires you to be a better man?
Honestly, I don’t have a lot of heroes. There are people I respect in their field (Seth Godin in marketing, Richard Branson in entrepreneurship, Elon Musk in technology), but I have issues with the way each of them live and do business, as well, so I don’t have one person to follow. This is a boon as well as a weakness, I guess, because although I don’t have one solid map to follow, I do have lots of sketchy adventure stories to dream about, which makes me want to draw my own map.
NLG: Can you tell me any tips for life or business that you have found that shouldn’t work but do? I mean tips that sound so stupid and absurd, that go against what people traditionally think works but it gets results (e.g. ignoring a girl makes her work harder to get you)?
I’m a big fan of game-playing when it comes to women, so nothing like that. Actually, that will work: telling the truth, brutally and always, is a great way to get what you want. I crashed a party (somewhat accidentally) when I first arrived in Buenos Aires and didn’t know anyone. I just kind of walked in an open door in an alley and headed up to the roof. I walked around a bit, ended up dancing and making out with a girl, and then met the host of the party, an MTV executive. She asked who I knew and what I was doing there, and I told her I just walked in; it looked like a good party from the street. She loved that, and we became good friends. I’ve had similar responses across the board, in business, in life, in relationships. Don’t play games, don’t tell lies, and just be communicative all the time. It’s what we should be doing anyway, but most people don’t, so it gets results when other things don’t.Also, be good to people. Even people who you think can’t offer you anything in return. It’s another tip that should be obviously, but very few people follow. Being a good person will make everyone want you to succeed, while being a douchebag will make everyone work (even in little ways) to see you fail.
NLG: Some great takeaway tips that people should incoperate into their lives. I’m always seeing you with another book or business venture and I’m amazed by your creativity. How do you continue being creative and running different kinds of businesses despite the busy lifestyle you lead? Where do you get your inspiration from?
CW: I read. A lot. I also talk to everyone I can lure into a conversation. I focus on things I don’t know about as much as possible, always trying to learn about new fields of study, other countries or cultures, whatever. I love conversations with people who are passionate about something I know nothing about. Thankfully, people like to talk about their passions, so generally I’m able to learn a LOT just from asking questions and paying attention to their answers. Cross-breeding that info with what I already know leads to a lot of unique connections, and that’s all creativity is. Know a lot about a lot of different subjects and you’ll seldom be without ideas or inspiration.
CW: Well, publishing is a great field right now because it’s so wide and deep. There are so many different approaches and media and things you can create. It’s also incredibly easy to get started, as the barrier to entry just keeps getting lower every month, as new software and platforms become available cheaply or free.
Really, though, I would advise people to work on what they know. Take the knowledge, learn a little design and a little coding and a little writing, and then go crazy. With a basic knowledge of those three areas, you’ve got all kinds of opportunities, and working with low- or zero-overhead industries (like publishing), the sky is the limit.
Also, remember that there are no overnight successes. Anyone looking to quit their job and make the same amount they were making from ebooks or whatever will be disappointed. It takes a while to build your platform, your reputation, your skill sets. Put effort into it over time and plan your move toward a more ideal lifestyle. Always be working on it, listen to all the advice you get (and filter out the crap; there’s a lot of crap advice out there), be good to people and willing to help out whenever possible, and work your ass off. If you do all that, who’s going to stop you? No one’s going to do it for you, but no one’s going to step in and try to keep you from achieving what you want to achieve. With enough time and effort, you WILL get there, it’s just a matter of having the patience and drive to make it happen.
I would also advise people not to try and follow in my footsteps, or anyone else’s. Anyone who wants to do what I did, the way I did it, will need a few degrees (in design and illustration), a background in journalism, a handful of businesses under their belt, and to have dated the same girls I’ve dated. You’ll need to have my parents, grow up where I grew up…you get the idea. Take ideas from people, but don’t try to become the ‘next Richard Branson’ or whatnot. Be the first you, and be epic. Trying to be anyone else is a recipe for disappointment, but no one can be a better you than you can. You have no competition, and you can make your own rules. Do so.
CW: Hmmm, hard to say. Here are a few recent ones I’ve felt good about:
And an older interview I did on Icelandic TV:
CW: I would say that we’re stronger when we work together, and to put aside all the silly issues we have with each other. We’re all people first. Act like it. We don’t need an ‘other’ to make us feel like a group; we took over the planet because we’re great at being a tribe. Let’s fix the problems we’ve got by embracing our differences, rather than trying to kill off anyone who believes differently. It’s a strength to want to learn from others, not a weakness. The only weakness is in thinking you have all the answers, because then you stop growing.
NLG: Well thanks Colin. There’s so much there for my readers to take away and act on. I can’t thank you enough for taking the time to talk to me.
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