In this interview with John Bardos from JetSetCitizen, we talk about:
- What a ‘good life’ means
- Unfounded fears
- The number one factor of all success
- Why living abroad is so life changing
- How to build the life of your dreams in one year
- How you can simplify your life to accomplish more
John lived in Japan for 13 years where he ran his own English and online language learning platform. In 2009, he and his wife made a one year plan to change countries and careers and that goal was made a reality 11 months later. He spent the last 4 years location independent rotating between Thailand, Japan, Europe and Canada.
Enjoy this interview. Then check out his deal, One Year to an Excellent Life, on how to build your dream life in one year.
I lived in Japan for 13 years. I got married there, built a successful business and had a good life by all standards. We had a good income and all the stuff we wanted, but it still was lacking. After years of procrastination, my wife and I made a one year plan to get rid of everything: Our house, business, car, and most of our possessions. We wanted a simpler life, with more travel, and more time to do what made us feel alive.
All my life, I was always very business-focused. I’ve started many businesses and sold a couple. I was always focused on money and all the things I thought I needed to be happy in life... the big house, big car, fancy stereo, espresso machine, expensive alcohol, and eating out restaurants. All the things society says we need to be happy in life.
I got all that, but they didn’t make me happy. They caused a lot of hassles, cleaning, maintenance, time for more shopping, and added a whole bunch of stress. The ‘success’ I was striving for my whole life turned out to be not very fulfilling. There was still something big missing from my life.
IF YOU DON’T FIND YOUR LIFE IN BUYING AND CONSUMING STUFF, THEN WHAT IS A GOOD LIFE?
What would it take to find meaning and fulfillment? My wife and I started to redefine success, away from the materialism we always believed.
The number one priority of any definition of success is health. Many people sacrifice health for work. I think that’s crazy. If you’re not healthy, you can’t enjoy anything or do anything else.
The second component of success is rich personal relationships. Making time for family, friends and meeting new people is critical. Without quality social relationships, what is the point of life?
The third major ingredient to success is contribution. Creating real value for other people is essential to personal satisfaction.
We have such amazing wealth in the world yet there is still so much suffering. We can all do much more to create a decent quality of life for everyone on this planet.
I don’t think I’d ever come to this realization if I hadn’t spent so much time abroad. In a completely different country like Japan, everything is so different. Their traditions, respect for the elderly, appreciation of art, culture and food. It’s so much more refined.
I arrived in the country assuming that everything different was inferior.
I MISTAKENLY FELT THAT I HAD A LOT TO TEACH.
Once I was there long enough, I started to realize that western countries in particular have a lot to learn from other cultures. Moving to a different country really opens your eyes.
Before I moved to Japan I didn’t question anything about my old way of life. I assumed that the western way was the way everybody lives, or should live. This is what life is.
After living in another culture, you start to say, “Wait a second. All the stuff I believed all my life... A lot of it is not true. It’s not universal.” We’re focused on western systems of beliefs largely driven by America and the UK.
LIVING IN JAPAN COMPLETELY CHANGED ME.
I didn’t expect it at all. I thought I’d be in Japan for only a short time. Maybe it’d be a home base for traveling, but it turned into 13 years in the country.
I arrived in Japan with no work visa, no job and only about $1000. However, everything quickly fell into place. I quickly found several jobs, including teaching at an English school.
Although I enjoyed teaching, I still had strong desires to start another business and do something bigger. After 1 ½ years in Japan, I realized that it’d be very easy to continue on that path indefinitely.
Unless I tried to improve and change, I’d be working for someone else for about the same salary for a long time. It happens to people all over the world. You might not be living your dream life, but it’s comfortable enough that you don’t want to risk doing something new.
After about a year and a half in Japan, I realized...
If I don’t do something big now, then I would be stuck in that life for a long time.
The only expertise I had in Japan was teaching English, so I started an English school with my new wife. The business did very well. For the first few years it was very exciting and challenging. We were constantly growing and doing new things. It was a lot of work but we really enjoyed it.
After about 5 or 6 years it started to become more repetitive. We had good systems in place and it become more about doing the same things over and over again. I became more of a manager, rather than an entrepreneur and I hated it.
My wife and I both realized that this is not what we want to do for the rest of our lives.
For many years, we talked about leaving Japan to do something different. But it was hard to change when you’ve got a good income, a house, a car, and everything you want. Life was really good, and we didn’t know what else we’d do.
It’s not like we were suffering, but we weren’t happy. We didn’t feel fulfilled. After years of discussing the possibility of doing something different I finally wrote a blog post titled…
ONE YEAR TO A NEW COUNTRY AND CAREER
That one year plan forced everything to happen. As soon as I made that declaration, we started to take action to make it a reality.
For years, leaving Japan was just a vague dream. I thought I was crazy to even entertain such thoughts. Why give up a good income for the unknown?
My blog definitely helped make the decision. It connected me with other digital nomads and location independent people. My interviews gave me a group of peers that were living the lifestyle I wanted, so I realized, “This is a real possibility. People are doing this.”
I didn’t want to think about the decision anymore. I just wanted to take action. The more you think, the more you’re not going to do something. It’s too easy to second guess yourself.
For younger people and new university graduates, it’s easier than ever to do whatever you want to do in life. You can move to the Philippines, Thailand, or Bali. You can start an online business or freelance online.
There so much opportunity in the world now. It wasn’t like this even a couple of decades ago. Anything is possible if you decide to make it happen.
FOR MOST PEOPLE, IT’S JUST MAKING A COMMITMENT.
Here’s some advice I’d offer to someone looking to drastically change their life.
- Downsize your house or apartment.
- Move back to your parent’s house if you can
- Sell unnecessary possessions. (Most are unnecessary.)
- Get rid of your car
- Get rid of cable
- Generally cut all expenses you can.
- Get a second job if you have to to same some extra money. You can live on $1000 per month in many countries around the world, so every extra $1000 saved is another month for your future life.
One year is plenty of time to save a decent amount of money and move to the other side of the world.
In Thailand, you can rent an apartment for $200 a month. Airfare is expensive but if you stay in one location for a long time, you can spread the airfare over many months.
It makes a lot of sense to move to South East Asia or even South America to grow your business. Lower living costs mean that the extra money can be invested into growing your business.
The other advantage of moving abroad is all the like- minded people you’ll have an opportunity to connect with. In Chiang Mai, which I call the Digital Nomad Capital of the world, there are always new entrepreneurs and travelers coming through. There are tons of opportunities to connect with people. It’s hard to meet people with the same values back home.
WE ALL HAVE FEARS.
Fear is normal. We’re all afraid of the unknown.
You might be worried about not finding a job again?
What if the traveling break screws up your career?
Is it safe in SE Asia?
Rest assured that all of these fears are grossly exaggerated and largely unfounded. There are so many opportunities to do anything you want in the world now. Your parents never had anywhere near this level of opportunity.
IT’S NOT THAT SCARY ANYMORE.
There’s no magic pill to easy online success, so don’t go looking for it. Expect that it will take work. Expect that you will fail. Every failure is one step closer to your goal. The faster you fail, the faster you’ll get on the right track.
Success is inevitable with enough hard work and focus. Focus is the key. We live in a world with endless attractive options available to us. It’s hard to focus long enough to make one idea a success.
My grandmother had no choice. She had to work on the farm or not eat. She woke up in the morning knowing exactly what to do. She wasn’t thinking about traveling or starting a business or writing a book or making a movie. Her primary goal was to get in the fields and milk the cows and do whatever needed to be done.
The most common problem I hear is, “I don’t know what my passion is” or “What business do I start? I don’t know what to do with my life.”
Everybody is in the exact same boat. We have too many choices and we’re all afraid to commit to one. However, you must commit to something, or you’ll be forever dreaming about a better life.
No choice is permanent. You can always change your mind, but you need to start taking action towards something.
To help you deal with the overwhelm, John agreed to do a one-hour class to help you simplify and defeat overwhelm. So you can transform your life and build the one you want.
He’ll help you design your personal one year plan to an excellent life. Click this link to check it out: One Year to an Excellent Life.