Is it Tuesday? Konstantin and I lost track of the calendar. Tuesday? We feel like we have had so much valuable input, surprising insights and inspiring encounters already and only two days have passed. My mind is constantly working. Some dead end roads and highways under construction in my brain have been opened.
14 people with entrepreneur spirit, more than three nomad coaches with a lot of experience and three villas in the hills of Lourinhã – that is the setting for one week of brainstorming, learning, dreaming and aspiring to liberation from a “normal” (work) life.
We gather around a wooden table and talk about tiny baby steps you might take first.
Leave your comfort zone, break your habits and set new rules
- refrain from playing with your smartphone all the time (caught me!)
- deactivate push news because they are not more than a cheap gratification system (somebody has liked my post!) that holds you back from really important stuff
- define times when you check social media and emails
- create rituals aligning with your personal rhythm of productivity and well-being – like: in the morning you are fresh so use the time to write or complete tasks that are displeasing and that you have been procrastinating
The next item on the agenda: the hate list. We are invited to write down all the things that have been going on our nerves the last weeks and month. I have quite a few that come to my mind. In another column we have to list an antidote, something, that might ease the pain of the hate item. That comes less easy. I feel locked in some of my situations at home although the solutions seem obvious: work less, do more of what makes you happy, sleep more, install a steady and healthy work environment, give yourself hugs and praise or ask people to do it if nobody else does, develop more self-esteem. All very well to say. I played this record a million times. But: It feels so much more tangible if you just write your thoughts and wishes down. Write more notes! With pen and paper. Pin a note with your goal on the wall.
Who am I? What do I want? The nomadweek starts in medias res. I try to fade out the self-marketing aspect for now because it scares me and I concentrate on the life lesson behind the answers. Do something that suits you. Do what you love. Take people seriously and solve (their) problems. Be a painkiller, meaning: Make the life of your potential customers easier. Explain your business idea (I do not have any!) in just one sentence. I sigh in relief. Well, I can definitely narrow down things – thanks to the good old school of journalism. Give me anything, I tell the story in one sentence. Just give me anything. And there is the problem. I want all and nothing. But let’s go ahead.
What drives you is what really matters
Values. Know them. I do! I want to work on the right side of ethics, I want to be with the good guys. I am right now, so no rush in that respect. I want to stay independent (intellectually and timewise), I want to do a job that does not interfere with my health (a clear “no” in that respect) and I want to travel as much as possible – at least more than I do now. I want to write longer pieces, no fancy technology involved. Just writing: about traveling, different cultures, good-hearted people with trivial and non-trivial problems. Or just happy people. My head goes astray. Does the world need more words, more blogs, more books? Is that relevant, is that necessary? Probably not. But if it what makes ME happy – why not. I want to do good, I want to be less judgemental. I want to be able to work remote with a minimum of financial security. I do not want to beg for jobs but have a base that enables me to do all the weird things that come to my mind.
Calm the storm in your brain and assemble the clouds – the market(ing) of ideas
The next session tackles the issue of: ideas. Most of the other 13 nomads seem to have many ideas, I have: None. Or let’s put it that way: I have an endless list of ideas and I think each idea is so exciting! For a quarter of an hour. The coaches advise us to take our time. An idea has to grow. Be patient. Read, listen, ask questions, dig deeper. Try things out. Specialization comes with time. Try to become a nerd in your niche. That reminds of a conversation at a bar in Bali that I had with a guy from England. We joked about how I could find a niche for a travel blog and I suggested to write one in Latin. Well, at least that would be niche!
Meanwhile, in Lourinhã, the scary marketing connotation is back again: Know your costumer and help him or her with what you do. Do I want to? Or do I want to help myself, help my ego? What could this “something” be that I am so enthusiastic about? Know your competitors (Do I want to “compete”?). What are they good at and why? Learn from them. You might copy an idea and just make it better. Or cooperate with them.
There are a lot of battle calls I hear on the first days:
“Different is better than better” (I just want to be good at “normal”.)
“Fake it till you make it.” (I am bad at faking.)
“Stay foolish, stay hungry.” (That sounds like me.)
Accept that you have to learn and stay in growth mode. You are not capable of everything but you can learn a lot. An experience I had in Texas comes to my mind: My host in Austin told me that he taught himself a skill: repairing pianos because he loves music and writes his own songs. He seemed to be in that kind of bliss mode that Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi describes in his book: “Flow”.
Talk to colleagues, network with like-minded people. In a magazine of “Freigeist Vision” that lies on one of the villas’ tables I read a phrase that sounds kind of harsh but is probably true: “You are the cross section of the 5 people with whom you spend a lot of time.”
Claudia, one of the participants, says another wise thing: Train yourself in failures. They will come. Learn to conquer disappointment such as: Blogs and podcasts do not pay you money automatically.
Ever and anon in your way: Safety thinking…
Humans have only two primal fears: height (I might fall down that abyss!) and unknown noise (Is there an enemy approaching?). All other fears are learned fears, like the fear of rejection, of darkness, of snakes. But fear can be turned into something good. It is a chance to grow. It is a sign that something is simmering, bubbling in yourself. How do I overcome fear? Let it simmer, let it bubble. Address it. Go out of your comfort zone.
“Do you have a problem? Yes. Can you solve it? No! So why worry?”
“Do you have a problem? Yes. Can you solve it? Yes! So why worry?”
I had an encounter with fear right after my arrival in Lourinhã. I went for a walk and got chased by a dog. He tried to bite my ankles again and again, I panicked. Fortunately, as if he was waiting for me, there was an old man sitting in front of his house, on the doorstep, with a long wooden stick in his hand.
He did not really understand why I was so upset, he had a quite careless expression on his face. I sat down next to him and the dog finally left me alone, staring at me. The man still did not get why I was so scared. But as soon as I wanted to get up to walk my way back to the villa, he came running towards me again. I was stuck. The man still seemed phlegmatic. We started to “chat” with hands and smiles. I think he sad something about having been in the military and shooting because he pretended his stick to be a rifle, but all this is just a rough guess. Finally, the nomadweek van passed by and gave me a ride home. What an adventure. This girl is trouble. For quite a while I was absorbed by the thought: What if this old man had not been sitting there?
Worst case scenarios are overrated – why not assuming the best possible?
Ask yourself this question: What is the worst that could happen? And: Is that really so scary? In the case of Laura, she tells us: I quit my job and started my journey with a certain amount of money. I always told myself: If I ever fall under a certain minimum, I just go back to Germany and take small jobs to keep my head above water. What is my worst case if I am no longer needed in my current job? I go travel the world. What if I dare to take all my money and leave everything behind? It is coming back and try to land on my feet again. Somehow. Why shouldn’t I? What a luxury thought. Many people in this world do not have that luxury. We are blessed. A breakdown can lead to something wonderful. You might decide to live more minimalist. Mahatma Ghandi needed just five things: glasses, a pocket watch, sandals, a plate and a bowl. I would add “something to wear”. But, yes, I got it. Working remotely and independently means: Living more consciously. What holds me back? Nothing, really. And still: There are friends, family, colleagues, German routines that I love.
I get lost in that thought, the wake-up call comes brutal. Marketing basics are back again. The coaches teach us to scrutinize our seemingly unique idea. “Will it fly?” Immediately, I question the question. I do not want to feel forced to fly, to have monetary success with what I am doing and what I am thinking is right. I am fine with not flying and taken a rotten scooter to wherever.
We get a lot of inspiration for concrete online jobs. Be a coach, make Skype workshops, be a copywriter, be a virtual assistant, be a content creator, set affiliate links. Set what? And then there it is, the topic of my virtual hate list: followers, range. The coaches advise us to use channels such as Instagram, Facebook, Youtube and – surprisingly – Pinterest. Pin- what? The strategy is to offer a “freebie” (free- what?…a product at no charge) to make people aware that you are out there, with something worthwhile, and to win trust.
If you are not the master of your mind yet – let others be
Next item on the agenda: Masterminds. What the hell is that? Who is a mastermind? Is it a game? Seems to be something very common in the nomad community. I am nervous what will happen. We split into smaller groups. Everybody is supposed to talk about five minutes about the things that hold you back from doing what you really want to do. The others listen, no interposed questions allowed. After your “five minutes of fame” everybody answers to what you have said. Sounds intense! But for some reason, it is not hard to open up. And even better: I like responding to everybody, from my heart, non-judgemental, encouraging, honest (I love honest!). My voice is trembling, my eyes watery and I am moved by all these great personalities I am meeting here. People who do not know me are giving me advice and it feels refreshing. Claudia says something striking: Maybe, you do not have to change a major something but just do some adjustments. Sometimes, there is no need to change everything at once and right away – some things can just BE for now. And another insight: Moaning is allowed, even if others say: Why are you moaning? Complaining on a high level is ok, do not condemn yourself for that.
Position yourself as a writer. You are an expert in your field. Make a list of all your achievements and you will see how many there are. Help others who have your problems – then there is a win-win situation: You solve their problems AND yours. Marco says: It seems who need more time-outs regularly. Go to the lake, let your thoughts wander, you are a free thinker. Make space for that. Write for yourself, for others – it does not matter. Do work part time but then actually use do something with the other 20%. Sven has something more radical in store for me: Jump off the cliff and explore the world. Do not be afraid of failing.
Infectious Laura – this energy bomb can set people on track
My personal “mastermind” of this week has been coach and nomadweek co-inventor Laura. She is full of energy and, to my mind, she has an amazing story to tell. Quit her well-paid management job, travelled the world, took her chances and now she lives in Cambodia, helps with running a hostel and working as a freelancer. We have a one-hour chat in the sun on the second day of the nomadweek and her enthusiasm is just infectious. She advises me to be bold, start small, use my strengths, sell what I am good at and focus on my dream. Well, after defining this “dream”. I cannot refrain from thinking “Wow, I wanna be her!” but this, of course, does not do anything for me. But: I leave the chair in the sun with higher spirits and a feeling of hope. Myabe anybody can do it – and if you take risks, life rewards you.
Five years from now: the headline of a rose-colored fairy tale
Another session is dedicated to the question: Where do you want to be in five years? The boring standard a recruiter might ask in a job interview. Who answers from the heart in that situation? We tackle the issue from a little different angle. Olli asks us to fold a paper in four compartments. In each of them we shall write down one of our most important values, as a sort of headline. Then image the following: Five years from now, you meet an old friend at the airport in Germany. He or she asks: How are you? We are supposed to formulate an answer, concerning the four values. Olli tells his sample story, very frankly. I am not quite sure whether I could reveal mine. The value part is easy: I chose health, job success, love and independence. Of course, in all fields I imagine myself to be happy with what is. The most important quotes probably are, that I sleep a lot and have a part-time job plus freelancing that pays the bills and enables me to live a modest life with a little fancy traveling here and there. Still, it feels like a fairy tale to me but writing it down makes it a little more realistic. It is blue on white, couldn’t it be a contract with myself? The coaches advise us to make a one-year plan. I cannot even cope with that. I had made plans years ago, they just did not come true. To be honest: They were vague and I did not work towards them in a structured way. I tend to take what I get. Life itself seems to choose my story, I stopped trying to write it because it felt a waste of energy. Should I really go back there again? Force things that do not come easily? A friend of mine taught me otherwise, maybe he was wrong. Or maybe the way is in the middle and not necessarily a compromise.
How to earn money working remote – just do it
The next session addresses the biggest question I had in my mind: Can nomads make a living by just blogging? The coaches, Bolle and Marco, say: Yes! They have established a successful travel blog. The two have met on Tinder. They fell in love and decided to make a trip around the world. What a love story! You do not need a strapline for that. Sounds like a “fast-selling item”. But it was not as easy as that and both tell us: You do not have a four-hour workweek as one might dream of. Bolle and Marco emphasize that it was a lot of work to combine their passions with business. They do not keep their numbers a secret and I am quite surprised. In good months (income varies) they have more money than I earn right now – also thanks to Bolles part-time job she can do remote. They say they live a modest life and lump their money together. And they killed my phantasy: They do not work for only four hours a week. Rather 40 to 60. But they only do what they love, they follow their ideas, wrote a book, they invent merchandise products and seem full of ideas.
The “Big Five” (if I interpreted my handwritten notes correctly):
- affiliate-links that direct people to products on Amazon or booking.com
- freelance jobs like texting for hostel-sites, conceptualizing, programming
- blogging & cooperation with companies like advertisements/sponsored trips/lotteries, sometimes they do sponsored trips
- building a shop with your own products like books, stickers, clothing, workshops, webinars
- intelligent pricing and “knowing what you are worth”
One aim is to generate passive income: Lean back and watch people buy your books. Sounds tempting! Tim Ferriss is back. I am skeptical with affiliate links and advertisements. Authenticity is the most important thing, both say, but I feel like you jeopardize it by inserting banners and links. Maybe if you choose your partners really wisely, it works. And probably nobody is as distrustful as journalists are when it comes to endorsement and sponsorship. I doubt that I am the person who is able to make money with a blog. I quickly feel like I am selling my soul. But I start liking the dream of writing a book or doing a workshop. That feels like using my strengths instead of running after buyers and companies I am not totally convinced of. Some other learnings from Bolle and Marco: Do not buy likes and fans, grow slowly and get the bureaucracy straight right from the start. Although Bolle and Marco work remote, they seem to have been longing for a home base. This is Germany now.
A good idea is worth nothing if nobody finds you – Search Engine Optimization
There is nothing dingy about optimizing your keywords. That’s what SEO is about and I can totally identify with that. 95 percent of all visitors come from Google, only four percent find their way via Social Media. Wow! I did not expect it to be that obvious. Daniel, Bolle and Marco tell us that they boosted their range and site performance dramatically after they started to exercise SEO. The secret is to be diligent: Your headlines should contain the overall message or topic of your blog or site, the (longtail) keywords of your target group should be in there and the pictures you use should have a significant title as well. Insert links and backlinks. There are websites which check your SEO status: How good is it? Articles should have between 800 to 1200 words (Yes, I broke that law again with this one). And it should not last longer than four seconds to load a webpage (I hope I succeed with that most of the times…). There are some useful tools to optimize your website aligned with SEO.
No self-branding is not an option
Nora Müller is our guest via Skype on one day. We gather around the TV screen. She lives in Berlin and does one-to-one coachings. I cannot image myself being a “brand” but she exemplifies with Sven how you could position yourself as a freelancer, as a “business”. I listen carefully and finally ask her: “What if I cannot position myself in a niche? What if I want to be a yoga teacher but not a yoga teacher for pregnant women with three cats?” Nora says: “That is ok. But then: Tell everybody that you are manifold.” So the message here is: Be yourself you, stay yourself.
Finally, we kind of end the week where we started: With the question of time management, will and routines. Daniel asks us to define our weak spots – where do we waste time?
One simple truth: Even if you have a full time job, working eight hours, there are four hours per day you can use to pursue your vision. Discipline yourself and slide in little rewards for yourself on the way. Prioritize your tasks in groups (and mostly deal with those that are “important” but not “urgent”), outsource tasks you don’t like and work according to the 80/20 rule. and the 25/5 principle (get a task done in 25 minutes, then take a break for 5. Repeat, repeat…).
“The difference between a successful person and others is not lack of strength or lack of knowledge, but lack of will.” (Vince Lombardi)
“There are people who make things happen, there are people who watch things happen, and there are people who wonder what happened. To be successful, you need to be a person who makes things happen.” (Jim Lovell)
In the end, we all watch another compelling message Prince Ea has to offer. Word.
Wow. What a week. So much self-questioning, so much input, so many ideas, so many times “just do it”. So many lovable people around me, with hunger for life. The sparks of their fires are truly enlightening. My head is full and empty at the same time. Some surfing and an excursion to the medieval village Óbidos (and its famous Ginja) have made a little space in my brain. But the subconscious has been working all the time. So many more questions. I have a “to-do list” with more than 20 items.
We leave on Saturday and I am lucky to be one of seven who head to Ericeira. So less “good byes” for now. I am looking forward to just letting go of everything, let my thoughts wander, explore Portuguese lifestyle, food, beaches and breathe the air of a surfers’ town.
After our good deed for the day (collecting about 16 kilo of garbage for the project of @Ozeankind ) and a lovely cooking session at my AirBnB I try some surfing (failed!), explore Ericeira and the surroundings. I teach myself to ride a scooter (I have a nervous right hand!), arrived at Sintra to head to the palace, met a Brazilian adventurer in a tuk tuk, got lost on my way back and accidentally turned onto a highway, tried a baby-sized headstand in the sand at Praia de Santa Cruz (Well…I might be getting there some day), ate goose barnacles (waiter: “Suck it!”) and a special kind of thorny sea snail for the first time and found peace seeing a romantic sunset.
You are what you eat – my food stops in Ericeira, Portugal:
- Petiskas (fish lovers will be in heaven…take the grilled octopus!)
- Green is Good (try a little bit of everything by choosing the brunch option, super-friendly staff)
- Sunset Bamboo Bar (decent coffee and cakes, cocktails, hipster style location)
- Brisa (fish restaurant with direct view of sunset, rather pricy but worth it)
- Fábrica da Nata (Lissabon, good place for breakfast with pastel de natas, pastel de bacalhau (fish pastry), baguettes, sandwiches, quiches)
Finally, I narrowed down my “to-do list” to 12 items and I relativized one of my earlier doctrines: Sometimes it is just awesome to have Wifi while traveling. Maybe the nomadweek was to early for me. But it definitely planted a seed. And it is comforting to feel something that we probably feel too rarely: Anything is possible. Anytime, anywhere.