This is the first article of a new series which will be my interviews with high performers. Learning from others’ experience is a great lifehack, so hearing their stories and advice can help you upgrade your own life. We’ll talk routines, business, mental and physical well being.
I’m thrilled to introduce you to Tomas today. His current lifestyle must be the envy of many of us bound to inner-city offices. A digital nomad, Tomas is known for founding Despreneur, a magazine for design entrepreneurs. He also co-authored a book, released an online course that already has 3,000+ students, and successfully sold a startup.
We caught up with him as he is travelling the world on a mission to help 1 million people change their lifestyle for good. Can he change yours too? Read on for insights and recipes to help you achieve more, live larger and stay on the rise.
With a multitude of superb projects out there, you work and live the lifestyle of a digital nomad. How did you get started with this lifestyle and why?
Back in 2013, I was working in a digital design agency based in London and didn’t really like the weather and the lack of creative challenges that comes with being based in an office. I decided to switch to freelancing and live anywhere in the world. At the time I was just starting out with Despreneur and then built Refe, a stock photo marketplace, that I sold in early 2015. This change was quite challenging at the beginning. However, after reading inspiring stories by Jon Yongfook, Pieter Levels, Jacob Laukaitis, I knew that the lifestyle of a digital nomad was what I wanted to do and I knew I would do whatever it takes to make it happen.
Mostly I love the freedom and growth opportunities this lifestyle provides me as it pushes me out of my comfort zone to discover the world, and my inner self too.
I’m sure many people dream about working remotely and travelling the world. However there are always those common fears to face, like a lack of security or facing the unknown. How did you deal with these fears and do you still experience them today?
Uncertainty is definitely the biggest fear I had. Initially, I’d question my every decision. What if I run out of money? What if the place I am moving to has poor WiFi and I can’t get work done? How am I going to exercise? What if my belongings get stolen?
All of these negative thoughts were bothering me at the very beginning but after traveling for a couple of months my tolerance for uncertainty grew exponentially. Right now I am completely comfortable being uncomfortable. I’m alright not knowing where I’ll sleep tomorrow, if at all. I’m alright having only a vague plan for where to go next. I’m alright not knowing anyone in the new place I arrive to, alright being misunderstood or lost in a foreign language and culture.
The biggest life hack that eliminated fear and increased my tolerance for uncertainty was meditation. I started practicing it roughly two years ago and very inconsistently. I’ve used Calm and Headspace apps but struggled to make meditation a habit for the first couple of months. It helped that I also went on a 10-day silent meditation retreat in the mountains of Northern Thailand.
Personally, the fear I battle with is that of slacking. Both in terms of work and also my personal development and growth. How do you make sure to stay productive, fit and also just enjoy working on a beach? Do you have any systems in place to help you do those things?
This will sound counterintuitive but true freedom is discipline. If you are able to introduce discipline into your life and stick with it, resisting the lure of quick wins and cravings, you will see results quickly.
I have been experimenting with my morning routines for over two years now. I’ve discovered that waking up early (in my case at 5am) as well as meditating, writing, reading and exercising has completely changed my life by getting me closer to my vision. I’d also add a healthy balanced diet and water intake as a big factor in feeling well and consistently performing at my best.
It’s all about habits. If you get your habits right, you don’t need to think through all of your actions and decisions because most will become automated. Recently I wrote about the decision-making diet and environment design on Forbes. There I shared how you can get desired outcomes by writing down scenarios for every life situation.
So how did your day look like yesterday? What did you get up to?
To log my daily progress I use the personal progress journal iDoneThis. It allows me to keep track of my daily tasks and serves as a reminder that, no matter how low my productivity is, I’m still making progress and moving toward my goals.
Yesterday I woke up at 5:00am, meditated for 15 minutes, read 20 pages of Malcolm Gladwell’s “Outliers”, wrote over 500 words, pitched topic ideas for Forbes, hit the gym for over an hour, reviewed Despreneur editorial calendar, worked with a developer on Despreneur, answered interview questions and pitched a big publisher for content syndication.
Do you have any specific rituals that you’d attribute your success to?
I do. Mostly it’s waking up early, exercising and meditation. Recently I started habit stacking and it works like magic. Below is my morning routine I follow every day except weekends.
- After I wake up I will drink a glass of water.
- After I drink water I will stretch for five minutes.
- After I stretch I will eat a healthy breakfast.
- After I eat I will meditate for 15 minutes.
- After I meditate I will read 20 pages.
- After I read I will write 500 words.
- After I write I will plan the day and define the MIT (most important task).
- After I plan the day I will do affirmations.
- After I do affirmations I will visualise and imagine doing my tasks.
- After I visualise I will work on the MIT.
- After the MIT I will exercise for an hour.
And speaking about success, how do you personally define it?
For me success is doing what I love for as long as I want. My main obsession is making ideas happen. It’s taking an idea and growing it into a product, into a movement, into something that touches people and inspires them to change for better.
What advice would you give to others who are planning to redesign their lifestyle? Is there anything you’d recommend in order to optimise for greater success?
Define a clear vision. Don’t be afraid to be bold and think big — even if it’s to create the next Facebook — believe in it and let everyone know about it. After that, start by taking small steps. The main reason you don’t have what you want to have is that you are not ready. Success requires changing your body, shifting your mindset and growing. It may also require giving up bad habits, cutting off negative people, focusing on your physical and mental health, always learning and pushing yourself outside of your comfort zone. This is how you reach the level where you’re ready for your vision to come true.
Focus daily on yourself first. Always: get enough sleep, eat good food, drink a lot of water, exercise, read and practice your craft before you do anything in the day. To pick up new habits or get rid of old ones, I recommend taking a look at the book Tiny Habits by psychologist BJ Fogg.
Other than that, surround yourself with people who are too busy to be negative and are hustling their way up by helping like-minded people.
Your lessons from 2014 are insightful and very useful. What is the biggest thing you’ve learnt this year?
There are many things I learned this past year. I wrote an overview of everything I experienced in my traditional yearly review here.
If I had to highlight one thing, it would be the following:
In the end, all that truly matters is that I loved. Another year is over and I don’t care how many arguments I won, I don’t care how many times I was right, I don’t care if I grew my business. All I care is that I loved myself, moments in the world, people surrounding me, my family and friends supporting me no matter where I am. When I think about this, it fills me up with a calming love for life.
What would be the top 5 books you would recommend for people to read?
I read daily: at least 10-20 pages of a book and numerous online articles on design, entrepreneurship and self-development. Currently I am reading “The School of Greatness” by Lewis Howes and “Outliers” by Malcolm Gladwell.
These are the five books I’d recommend to anyone, whether they’re looking to find their purpose in life, looking for career advice or starting their own business that may change the world:
- “The Alchemist” by Paulo Coelho
- “How to Win Friends & Influence People” by Dale Carnegie
- “The 4-Hour Workweek” by Timothy Ferriss
- “Start Something That Matters” by Blake Mycoskie
- “Start with Why” by Simon Sinek
Aside from reading, in what other ways do you ‘sharpen the saw’?
I love listening to podcasts, reading articles on Medium and I follow industry leaders on Twitter.
Some of the podcasts I listen to are:
The School of Greatness with Lewis Howes – Lewis interviews bestselling authors, top athletes, successful entrepreneurs and other inspiring individuals.
The Tim Ferriss Show – Tim talks with scientists, authors, entrepreneurs and people who change the world. Topics range from neuroscience to psychology to business and more.
Finally, where can people find you online?
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