how to be a digital nomad

Brian David Crane is a serial entrepreneur. He sold his first company at age 24. He has helped launch six different million-dollar brands, including Archives.com, which was bought for $100 million three years after launch.

Brian has been a digital nomad since 2014 and he’s here to talk about the downsides of the digital nomad lifestyle, and why you might want to rethink selling everything you own and traveling around the world.

Brian has had an entrepreneurial streak since he was a teenager. His first business was a lawnmowing company that he started at the age of 14. When he was 17, he started a recycling business with his mother that helped him pay his way through college. He sold that business after he graduated from college at 24.

Brian decided to travel the world to find himself. He was supposed to see 25 different countries during his 25th year. He canceled the trip three countries in, because it had no purpose and it didn’t seem to be helping him much.

He lost all his money in the financial crisis of 2008. Brian says that’s one of the best things that ever happened to him, because he was a little too big for his britches at that point.

A friend got Brian a job out in Silicon Valley. Over the next three years, he learned how to build and launch digital brands and built up a number of e-commerce brands.

Then he decided to strike out on his own and build the CallerSmart app, which helps you identify blocked and anonymous callers on your cell phone.

What Is the Digital Nomad Lifestyle?

Brian considers himself more of an expatriate than a digital nomad. He travels to a place, lives there for 3 to 5 months, and uses where he’s living as a base from which to explore. He has several bases around the world.

He has lived in:

  • Bali
  • Hong Kong
  • Vietnam
  • Poland

One of the major downsides to being a digital nomad is the fact that you move around all the time. People who are contemplating this lifestyle massively underestimate the time it takes to ramp up and ramp down from traveling. It undercuts your productivity quite a bit.

It’s very hard to build consistent habits as a digital nomad. It’s nearly impossible to create a routine if you’re always moving around.

Dealing with the Double-Edged Sword of Envy and Perception

As a digital nomad, you want to show people your lifestyle. But if you’re too open on social media, your boss and the people your boss works for will see it, and they may begin to question your work product. There’s a real danger to your income if you’re too transparent about your lifestyle.

The Digital Nomad Ponzi Scheme

There are a lot of digital nomads who travel the world because they convince other people who want to live that lifestyle to hire them as a coach. Instead of providing value and great insights, they make their money and support their lifestyle by telling you how you can do the same.

It’s a Ponzi scheme, plain and simple.

How to Find a Quality Coach Who Will Actually Help You Improve Your Skills

Starting about a year and a half ago, there were a lot of Facebook ads targeting people who wanted to be coaches. These coaches would coach people on how to coach coaches.

If you’re searching for a coach to help you improve a skill set, the best thing to do is search for a coach who has achieved what you want to achieve in life. You want to look for a coach who is successful and makes their income from something other than just being your coach.

The best coaches are people who are reluctant to take on new clients. They are busy, successful people who don’t need to make money from coaching clients.

Stay Away from Gurus

There are three levels of teaching.

  1. A teacher can teach a skill without being a master at it. There are plenty of teachers who teach physics who aren’t master physicists.
  2. A mentor is someone who has mastered the skill. Mentors are people you can model to achieve success.
  3. A guru is someone who has mastered the skill and uses their mastery in one area of their life to convince people to follow them in every area of their life.

Gurus can be dangerous, because everyone is unique and gurus want everyone to follow their systems regardless of your individual strengths and personality.

the key to becoming successful is to be indispensable

The Real Key to Success

“Become so good in your field that they can’t ignore you. Become so good that the marketplace demands more of what you’re doing.”
– Brian David Crane

 

The real key to success in anything you attempt is to become so good at what you’re doing that people can’t ignore you. You want the marketplace to demand more of what you’re selling.

To develop that kind of expert skill level requires focus. You can’t be focused if you’re always traveling everywhere. When you’re constantly traveling, your brain is wired to always think about what’s happening next. If that’s all you’re thinking about, you can’t possibly live in the moment and plan to cause real, lasting change in the world.

The Problem with Materialism in the 21st Century

The problem with the lifestyle advocated by books like The Four-Hour Workweek by Tim Ferris is that it creates an addiction to novelty.

This type of lifestyle book advocates having experiences as being more valuable than owning things. While that may be true to some extent, there are extremes with every type of lifestyle.

Becoming addicted to novelty doesn’t allow you to process your personal experiences deeply.

Player Discipline and How It Relates to Online Business

The Dominican Republic is really good at producing major-league baseball players. This is because they teach aspiring baseball players how to hit every pitch that’s thrown at them, whether it’s thrown at their head or at their ankles.

The problem with this approach is when those players get to the major leagues, batting coaches don’t want them swinging at pitches outside the strike zone.

The same can be said for online entrepreneurs. When you’re just starting out in business, you take every opportunity you can get; you hustle to get clients.

The problem is, once you reach a certain level of success, it’s more important that you say no to certain opportunities that don’t work for you.

The true key to success is focusing on what value you can offer to the marketplace by using your best talents. By saying yes to everything once you reach a certain point of success, you limit your effectiveness.

How to Develop Your Discipline

“I find for myself that if I have a sense of pushing a rock up a hill, if I listen to that, if I’m not stubborn and I pay attention to it, a lot of times that’s an indicator to me that I’m swinging at something outside my strike zone. Realizing that helps reinforce my discipline.”
 – Brian David Crane

 

“Discipline for me is about cultivating the right habits. If you have the right habits in place, discipline becomes effortless.”
– Tom Corson Knowles

Brian’s Digital Nomad Habits

  • Brian has a sound machine he uses to help him sleep.
  • Before he goes to sleep, Brian puts his phone on airplane mode.
  • Brian journals every night. He has for four years.
  • Before he turns on his phone each morning, Brian does calisthenics and dancing.
  • Brian drinks 2 liters of water every day.
  • Brian has a set morning routine and a set nighttime routine that help him book-end the day in both directions, no matter where he’s at.
  • At every one of his bases, Brian has a particular office setup. He uses a two-monitor display setup to do his work.
  • Brian has found that having that stability dramatically increases his productivity.

One of the keys to happiness in life is having a balance between certainty and uncertainty. You need enough certainty to be stable and develop habits. You need enough uncertainty to be stimulated and surprised by new experiences.

Living a Great Life as a Digital Nomad

One of the problems digital nomads have is that constantly traveling the world feels like a vacation, and yet in order to sustain your lifestyle, you have to work some of the time.

So you’re never really on vacation, but you’re never focused completely on your work. It makes things muddled.

That’s why Brian chooses to have a base to explore from. It gives him a place to do his work and the ability to shift mentally from work to play.

Traveling while you work leads to incompatible long-term goals. And it siphons away your productivity.

When considering adopting the lifestyle of the digital nomad, it’s important to know ahead of time what you’re going to sacrifice, and to know your limits.

“You can have a lot of the things you want. You can’t necessarily have everything you want.”
– Tom Corson Knowles

 

“You can have everything you want, just not all at once.”
– Brian David Crane

 

When you want everything all at once, it leads to a great deal of pain because your expectations are out of line with reality, either consciously or subconsciously.

Being a digital nomad can be lonely. Brian misses the experience of working in an office with coworkers. There’s a social aspect to working with people in an office that the digital nomad gurus don’t talk about when they’re selling the lifestyle.

Another aspect to this is that as a digital nomad, all of your relationships are transitory because you’re moving around all the time.

It can be healthy to have an office and coworkers you see on a regular basis. Spending time together is what allows people to build relationships.

Developing and Maintaining Relationships as a Digital Nomad

Maintaining relationships as a digital nomad can be difficult. One solution is to live with friends. Last year, Brian and two friends rented a ski villa outside of Vancouver, Canada. The villa had five bedrooms. So there was a core group of three people there, all of whom had online businesses, and a rotating group of friends who occupied the remaining two bedrooms.

Again, the key to relationships is spending time together.

Another key to building friendships as a digital nomad is to find people who are on the same trajectory, and who you’re going to see over and over again. It’s incredibly tiring to keep initiating new people into your social group.

It’s important to build a community of people with similar interests around you. Having that community makes living the life of a digital nomad much less stressful.

“If you want to be location independent, why not go somewhere where you already have friends?”
– Tom Corson Knowles

Cultivate and build friendships with people you know you want to spend more time with in the future.

Using Mastermind Groups to Build Relationships

Another place to find like-minded people is through mastermind groups. These groups are great because they’re full of like-minded people pursuing similar goals. They can help you professionally as well as personally.

Using Local Sports Teams as a Way to Meet People

When Brian moves to a new location, he finds a local sports team to follow and uses that as an icebreaker to develop local relationships.

In Europe, Brian likes to follow soccer. He’s also a fan of basketball. Any team sport that will get you connected with people in the community works well.

The benefits of following a local sports team are:

  • It’s community-oriented.
  • It’s away from the computer.
  • It’s not motivated by business.
  • It allows you to keep your social life and business activities separate, which is helpful from a productivity standpoint.
  • Getting involved in local sports gets you involved in the community and away from your computer screen.

Using Social Media to Connect in Person

“I use Facebook and other social media platforms to find out who else is around [in my area] so we can meet face-to-face.”
– Brian David Crane

Some time ago, Brian was going to Oktoberfest to visit his girlfriend. He got on social media to see who else might be attending that Oktoberfest event and found out that two friends from Tennessee were also going. He was able to connect with them because he put an announcement on social media.

Travel with a Purpose in Mind

One of the major reasons Brian is traveling the world is to find a home where he can put down deeper roots. He knows a lot of people in their 30s who have a family and routine, and having that kind of stable life looks good to him right now.

From the point of view of those friends, Brian has a really good life. It’s the old cliché that everybody wants some of what they don’t have.

It’s important to know why you’re traveling and what the purpose is. That’s what’s going to allow you to get the most out of it.

The one thing that Brian might regret is that he didn’t start traveling until he was in his mid-20s. He would have traveled earlier, but it didn’t occur to him until somebody invited him to travel outside the United States because they thought he’d like it.

Advice for Aspiring Digital Nomads

“I see so many people who jump out of the plane without a parachute and just assume they’re going to learn how to land on their feet on the way down.”
– Brian David Crane

In Brian’s experience, it’s much easier to live the digital nomad lifestyle if you already have a part-time or full-time income coming in.

So many people tell you to just follow your dreams and you’ll figure it out as you go. You can do that. Many have.

But without question, it’s the hardest way to go.

Without a guaranteed income, there are so many more pressures and distractions to deal with than if you have a steady income coming in on a regular basis.

Write a book. Get a side business set up that’s not tied into any particular location, and then look into traveling.

It’s best to try out the digital nomad lifestyle before committing completely. Try a couple of trips to see if they work for you. A lot of people try it out and then go back to their life, either because they have satisfied their curiosity or because traveling wasn’t like what they expected.

The best way to have an impact in the world is to put down roots, focus, and take action.

CallerSmart and the IRS Scam

CallerSmart is an app that Brian had developed. It currently has more than 500,000 active monthly users who work to keep the database up-to-date.

CallerSmart can help you identify blocked phone numbers and unwanted callers. It can also help you block scam phone calls. The app works with iPhones and Android smartphones.

In particular, CallerSmart can help you avoid a scam having to do with the IRS.

This is where someone will call you from a blocked number and tell you that they are from the IRS. They say that you owe the IRS money and if you don’t wire them money immediately, they’re going to freeze your bank account or throw you in jail.

In reality, the IRS delivers tax notices exclusively via the U.S. Postal Service. You can call the IRS, but they will never call you directly. The first contact will always be through the mail.

CallerSmart will help you identify and block unwanted scam phone calls.

Links and Resources Mentioned in This Interview

Archives.com – One of the most lucrative brands Brian has helped launch. It sold for $100 million three years after launch.

https://www.callersmart.com/ – Brian’s current company. This app will help you identify blocked and unwanted calls on your cell phone.

The 4-Hour Workweek, Expanded and Updated: – the foundational book for anyone contemplating becoming a digital nomad.

 Healing the Shame that Binds You — John Bradshaw’s book about how to heal your personal shame.

Connect with Brian

Connect with Brian on Twitter – https://twitter.com/briandavidcrane

Email Brian directly – brian AT CallerSmart.com

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