Over the past 4 months, I’ve had the opportunity to see some of the world’s most remarkable places, living and working remotely.  Here are four key takeaways that I’ve observed seeing the world with a laptop and a backpack, focusing on making life simple…

The Happiest People Do the Simplest Things

In Costa Rica, Nicaragua, and Indonesia, people live a simple life. While many of these people appear impoverished to people who are accustomed to first world luxuries, their simple lives are often happy ones.

I’m currently sitting drinking coffee on Gili Meno, in the middle of the Indian Ocean where there are no cars or motorbikes, watching a scuba instructor prepare his boat for the day. The boat looks like the top is about to blow off. It’s being held down by a blue tarp, weathered by years of stormy weather.  Some people would curse this old boat, and write it off as junk…

The funny thing is that this guy has a smile on his face, and he’s taking pride in his work. Even better than that, he makes a great living doing what he loves, and the service he provides puts a smile on his client’s faces. Nobody will care if they get wet. They are in paradise. And he makes more money than just about anyone on the island.

Simple people often make a simple living, and do simple things to make them happy.

If only life was that simple for the rest of us…

Live Every Day with Intention

The one thing that sets Indonesians apart from other places I’ve visited is their intention for everyday life.  I spent week with a Balinese Hindu family in the rice patties of Ubud, Southeast Asia’s yoga capital, and I couldn’t stop observing how grateful the people were.

A few times per day, the simple people, who run a great homestay business, put out traditional Balinese offerings and light incense all around their homes and shops. One day I woke up and that an offering had been placed on my motorbike. When I asked the woman about it, she said it was to show her gratitude for the bike helping her everyday. The bike brings her a $5 daily rental fee from me, allows her to get to and from the store, and gets her daughter to school.  She was truly grateful for the bike, and focused her intention on appreciating the smaller things in life. In a fast paced Western life, most people don’t sit in traffic and think about how grateful they are to have a working mode of transportation, instead their focus is blaring the horn at the a**hole in front of them, who is “making them late”.

Even the most impoverished people in Bali seem to focus less on the fact that they bathe in a stream, and more on the fact that they are happy to be clean. In my humble opinion, living with this type of intention and gratitude is a great cure for the scarcity mindset. I hardly believe that these people feel poor.

Not Every Wave Breaks Just Right

Everyone in business wants to ride the next big wave, but as we all know, the waves that most look most tempting to ride often come to a violent crash. As an inexperienced surfer in some of toughest surf Bali has to offer, I had to be aware that very few waves are actually right to take advantage of. Here are a few tips directly analogous to business:

  • Sit and Study— Every beginner surfer wants to jump right into the water and catch every wave, and then can’t figure out why they keep missing them. By studying how the waves break, what makes them a quality ride, and the right time to jump on, you’ll figure out which to ride and which to let pass you by.
  • Observe the Competition— While I think of surfing as more of a competition with myself, by nature, I still want to be better than the other surfers out there. Same goes for business. Sit on the beach, watch what makes others successful, model after the best, and try to figure out your own competitive advantage.
  • Be Patient— Every wave is not for you, just as chasing every new business trend will not get you to the promise land. Remember– if you miss a wave, the next one is right around the corner, and usually it’s bigger and less crowded.
  • Use Mental Strength— To me surfing is 70% mental and 30% physical. Yes, I can hop up on a board, and know how to execute, but the pre-planning and strategy is the most important thing to me in business and in surfing. Sitting and studying the waves, observing the competition, and being patient are all things that make a person successful. I would take mental strength over raw talent in any pursuit.

Embrace Being Different

Traveling and running a business abroad has not been easy. Other successful entrepreneurs with lavish lifestyles like to mock my minimalism. On a recent Founder’s Excursion, a fellow entrepreneur couldn’t believe I turn off my cell phone service when I’m abroad. To me, it’s about staying lean, disconnecting from the noise, and freeing up my mental energy to be creative.

Anyone who has taken the leap into entrepreneurship, moved far from home, or decided to do something different than what society tells them to do can understand. People feel threatened when you do something out of the ordinary, it simply challenges their way of life and way of thinking. I know that not all my friends, family, and certainly not Facebook friends, quite understand what or why I’m doing what I’m doing.

In the end, it’s up to me to decide whose opinion I really value. I know that the people who truly matter trust my judgement and are happy for me.

In life and in business, you are often have to make difficult decisions, that won’t make everyone around you comfortable. Embrace this, and know that being different can be your biggest asset.

When people around you are all doing the same thing, look to do the opposite.

Matt Wilson is Adventurer in Residence at the travel company Under30Experiences.  Join them on their next adventure.


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