Year in review life lessons digital nomad

This post should have been published on January 1st. But for the very last time, I allowed myself another slip, by letting it drag for a couple of more days.

The lack of productivity and pursuit of perfection is something I’ve come to master in 2016. It’s also something I’ve decided to bury once and for all in 2017.

As we’ve just wrapped another year, I’m going back at it to see what’s worked for me. The things I’ve learned, and some of the things I’ve struggled with.

It’s never “the right time” to make the leap

The year started in a frenzy.

We’d been desperately trying to sell our belongings to gather as much cash as we could before flying to Bangkok. Bangkok was planned to be our first destination on our nomadic journey.

The last few months of 2015 had been quite depressing. Following the downfall of my startup, I was refusing corporate offers, and seriously struggling on getting by. My bank account couldn’t get passed 3 digits those days.

At the end of January, we had exactly 2500$ to our names. Very little recurring income from the productized service I had started a couple of months earlier.

Just not enough to account for this move.

Yet, we’d been talking about doing this for 6 months. We decided it was now, or we would end up never doing it. And never knowing what this lifestyle would add to our lives.

Whether it’s starting a new business, quitting your job, moving abroad or any other endeavor you might be dwelling on, it’ll never feel quite like the right time to do it. 

The time is never perfect. 

What makes it perfect is taking action regardless and following through.

We've landed in Bangkok, and have settled in our condo. We'll be exploring this magnificient city before heading to Chiang Mai!

A photo posted by Emir | Entrepreneur on the Fly (@eotfly) on

Pursue your dreams

My dream was to build multiple income streams that would let me work and live anywhere in the world. I wanted to have the freedom and flexibility to be able to travel, work on things that mattered to me with people I chose to work with.

It might sound cliché, and it’s probably easier said than done. But there’s no reason not to take one step forward every day towards a life that will let you do things that make you happy.

Make time for yourself. Time to think, time to plan and time to play. 

Don’t get stuck in a rut. Keep your mind agile.

Have a plan while pursuing your dreams

I had a very loose plan in mind.

Sometimes, the flexibility can help your creativity. That didn’t happen to me.

It caused me to over analyze alternative projects, procrastinate and spend a lot more time on consuming rather than creating.

This hurt my consistency and productivity, which in turn delayed my progress.

Make sure to have a clear objective in mind when jumping on a new endeavor. Set a course of action with milestones you must adhere to during a given time frame. Track your progress and iterate as you go along. 

Be open to taking a few steps back to leap forward 

In a matter of days, we went from living in a spacious 2 bedroom condo in Istanbul to a 30 square meter apartment in Chiang Mai, Thailand.

We did it willingly. Not only we didn’t complain, but we were ecstatic about having gone “nomadic”.

Yet, besides traveling and meeting fellow digital nomads, the purpose of moving in a tiny apartment in northern Thailand was to save costs, extend our runway, while figuring out our next move.

It’s OK to be taking 2 steps back to take 20 steps forward. Cutting down on your costs and living frugally will give you the hunger and dedication you need to make things work for you. 

Filter the noise 

The moment I announced I was giving up my life in Turkey to live a life of travel and adventure, I had many people questioning my judgment and offering better advice.

Take your time to make up your mind. But once you do, don’t hesitate. Don’t look back. Just commit to it and make the best of it.

Use the 5/25 rule to learn to say “NO” 

I had a difficult time resisting distractions this year.

You’re meeting people every day. There’s a conference or event happening every week. Life on the road triggers your creativity and fills your brain with new ideas. For me, this meant devoting less of my time for things I’d already planned on doing.

I decided to spend my time on focusing only on a handful of goals this year. Warren Buffet calls it the 5/25 rule.

Write down 25 goals you want to achieve for the year (or for the next few years). Pick the 5 that are most important to you, and never look back to the other 20. Those are to be avoided at all cost.

Invest in experiences, not in “things”.

For a year now, everything I own fits in a medium sized luggage. My luggage is about 95% full. This means whenever I buy something new, I have to throw something else.

This changed my purchasing decisions entirely. Instead of buying things, I’ve allocated most of my spending to experiences that will build lifelong memories.

The trouble with possessions is that the pleasure it gives you fades quickly. Experiences, on the other hand, can’t be quantified. They introduce you to different worldly perspectives. They help you define your passion and purpose. They help you express gratitude. 

Unlike “things” they can’t be substituted.

Develop a growth mindset

There were times this year when I felt extremely hopeful, motivated and dedicated to my work.

There were also times where I was questioning my decisions, feeling anxious and drowning in self-doubt.

I learned that it takes time to build momentum. But once you’re in the flow, it’s important not to let go of it.

Showing up every day is by far the most important lesson I’m taking away this year. Every time I took a break from pursuing my goals, it took me an eternity to get back to the same state of mind.

Where you are today is irrelevant. What matters is where you’re going. 

Don’t put weight into negative thoughts. Condition your mind. 

Your thoughts shape your actions, which in turn define the result you’re getting out of them. 

Invest in yourself

This year I spent the majority of time and money on developing my skills, learning from others and exploring my creative side.

I’ve been putting a budget aside that will allow me to learn from people who I believe are ahead of me in a given field. The money I spend mostly goes to online courses, masterminds, and private coaching.

As with any investment, I know the returns will require patience and hard work. But every new skill I acquire is a skill that can’t be taken away from me.

If you are in it for the long term; persistence and careful application of your learning will give you tenfold the return.

You are your best asset. Be proactive. 

Hone your talents with continuous education and find a way to apply it to your life.

Leverage your idle time to learn more

A few years back, I used to fill my idle time with watching films and randomly browsing the web. Hours would just pass by without me doing anything productive.

In 2016, I’ve mastered the art of using idle time as an asset. In late 2015, I calculated the time I spent on commuting, traveling and exercising and decided to channel it towards learning and getting closer to achieving my goals.

I have switched from listening to music while driving and exercising to listening to podcasts and audiobooks.

Same thing goes for traveling. I feel like I can watch a film anytime, but devoting 10 hours to reading and listening to podcasts is not something I can do every day.

Books and podcasts serve as great mentors too. The more you learn, the more you question and the more you expand your mind.

Time is our most valuable non-renewable resource. It’s also the one thing we complain about not having enough of. 

Recognize the time you spend on idle time and find ways to use it more efficiently.

Last week we decided to drastically change our plans by shortening our stay in The Philippines. Unreliable and slow internet connections made it very hard to get any kind of significant work done. So in matters of a few hours we shortlisted a couple of potential cities to which we could settle for another month before heading back to the old continent. We seriously considered Bangkok, Koh Lanta, Langkawi, Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City as a potential destination and finally settled on HCMC or Saigon as the locals call it! ????????. #Bestvacations #travelawesome #digitalnomads #nomad #sharetravelpics #travelblog #mytravelgram #traveldiary #tv_travel #southeastasia #dreamdestination #ilovetravel #exploringtheglobe #lifeonthemove #theworldshotz #thegoldlist #travelforever #tasteintravel #travelmore #worldtravelbook #travelporn #travelbuddy #nomadlife #traveltips #globetrotter #travelworld #backpackers #wonderful_earthlife #lifewelltravelled

A photo posted by Emir | Entrepreneur on the Fly (@eotfly) on

Grow and nurture your network

Being away for extended periods of time had a very fruitful effect on how I approached my relations with my friends and business contacts.

I put an important emphasis on regularly keeping in touch with my friends, meeting them when I was back in Turkey and in The Netherlands.

As for new contacts, I took the opportunity to meet like-minded people everywhere I went to. I took part in meet-ups, met fellow location independent entrepreneurs in various co-working spaces, events and conferences I attended.

Keep in touch with people you value. Share your wins and failures. It’ll help you build a support system you can always rely on. 

Implement habits

There are certain key actions I need to be taking regularly such as working out, meditating, setting time aside for reading, writing and doing deep work all the while having enough time to “play”.

Doing these things on a regular basis keeps me at a peak state. It helps me stay focused and dedicated to my goals.

Yet, every time I regard these actions as “to-do” items, I always fall behind and end up not committing.

As Aristotle puts it, “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not act, but a habit.” 

Implement powerful habits to your daily life. Make it a routine. This way it’ll feel natural, and you’ll greatly improve the quality of your life.

Acknowledge resistance and then beat it

In October I read Steven Pressfield’s The War of ArtIt’s the one book that had the most impact on my thought process. It blew me away and came as a harsh wake-up call.

Resistance is what stops you from taking action and doing the things you know will change the outcome of your life if done successfully.

Resistance can take many forms. It comes as self-doubt, procrastination, and fear of failure.

Resistance is how we protect ourselves from taking risks.  

It always comes when venturing into unknown territory. And if you dig down the bottom of resistance, you’ll find fear.

Acknowledge it and then beat it!

There are only two emotions: love and fear

This one is debatable, but one that I find to be particularly true.

This topic was also discussed on Tim Ferriss’ final podcast episode of 2016.

From time to time, I find myself to be spiraling down in a negative thought process. I will feel stressed, angry or anxious about a certain thing.

Just as resistance, it’s crucial to understand and acknowledge the source of these thoughts. Looking back at it, I see that these emotions are always disguised as fear.

Fear of failure. Fear of uncertainty.

Assuming there are only two emotions. Ask yourself which one you are feeling right now and what makes you behave in a certain way. 

Recognizing your emotions will help you manage them more effectively.

Practice gratitude

The time I spent in Southeast Asia has helped me notice the small things I used to take for granted.

I’m devoted to my goals and ambitions, but no longer focus on my desires the way I used to.

Every morning, I try to remind myself of the abundance and opportunities so many of us have been given. The more I do so, the more patient I become, the less I resist – and the more I surrender to the moment.

As Tony Robbins says, “The antidote to fear is gratitude. The antidote to anger is gratitude. You can’t feel fear or anger while feeling gratitude at the same time.”

Practicing gratitude helps you start the day on a positive and happy note.

Don’t focus on your shortcomings. We all have them. They are just different for every one of us. 

Recognize your strengths and double down on them.

What is the most important lesson you’ve taken away from 2016?

                                                                                                                                                                                   – Crafted in Bangkok, Thailand