#11 Artist & Songwriter Tuimi Finds Her Purpose

“Plan it in detail and execute it. And if the plan’s there and you cannot solve all the problems on your own then find the help that you need and the right people.”


Tuimi shares her musical journey from songwriter to singer to producer – and from Germany to Vietnam – to launch her first two singles, Purpose and Menina. What is it like getting started as an independent artist?


  • Songwriting & Vietnam (1:25)
  • Life as an Independent Artist (19:10)
  • Callings, Plans & Purpose (33:54)


Tuimi is an artist and songwriter of Vietnamese descent from Dresden, Germany. She currently resides in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam.

Show Notes



ASE Blog

#10 Unlocking Kobe Bryant’s Mamba Mentality

Kobe Bryant has inspired millions to work hard and be excellent. But what makes hard work, curiosity and tenacity a whole lot easier?

If you got to get up every single morning and remind yourself of how hard you need to work you probably need to choose a different profession, cause that shouldn’t be there.

– Kobe Bryant


Show Notes

ASE Blog

#9 Making Morning Routines Stick with Tiny Habits

Do you have a morning ritual? If you’re like me, you’ve tried to do certain practices in the morning – meditation, tai chi, visualizations – but they’ve never stuck.

This episode is about picking ONE morning ritual and making it so easy to do that it becomes an automatic part of your morning – no motivation required.



ASE Blog

#8 Spring Cleaning for Chinese New Year

Sweeping out the old to let in the new.

Happy Lunar New Year!

Chúc mừng năm mới!




It’s hard to believe but I’ve celebrated Chinese New Year over 15 times out here in Asia.

And one of the biggest Lunar New Year traditions in China, Taiwan, Singapore, and here in Vietnam, besides the red envelopes, the reunion dinners, the lion dances, is cleaning out the house before the new year, otherwise known as 大掃除.

This translates to the “big cleaning.”

Days before the New Year families clean their entire house, scrubbing down every nook and cranny in hopes of sweeping out bad luck from the previous year.

The idea?

To clear room for a New Year full of good luck and prosperity.

I hate to clean but it’s beautiful to spend half a day doing this.

There’s so much to donate, so much to dispose, and I made a point to scrub down every corner of my apartment, spic and span. Making it lighter, airier, fresher…

Like Daniel in the Karate Kid,

[Mr. Miyagi: Wax on right hand, Wax off left hand]

I learn through each wipe that I must: sweep out the old to let in the new.

[Mr. Miyagi: Don’t forget to breathe. Very important!]

And what a metaphor this is.

Not just for the Lunar New Year but for life.

We must breathe out to breathe in.

We must empty our cups to be filled.

We must make space for luck and opportunity to enter.

And what about scrubbing our digital homes and our inter mental space too?

If our closets and laptops and minds are full of clutter and dust, how can life add anything new?

So my first question when welcoming a new year or welcoming something new into my life is not what to do? but first, what must I let go?

And that’s what I’m reminded of each Chinese New Year, especially this year cleaning out my small apartment in Saigon, Vietnam.

So I want to wish you all a Happy Chinese New Year.

心想事成 (xīn xiǎng shì chéng) “May all your wishes come true.”

步步高升 (bù bù gāo shēng) “May every step take you higher.”

恭喜发财 (gōng xǐ fā cái) “Wish you wealth and prosperity.”

年年有餘 (nián nián yǒu yú) “May you have abundance every year.”

Chúc Mừng Năm Mới, “Happy New Year.”

Sức khỏe dồi dào, “Wishing you plenty of health.”

And as a public service announcement, please remember don’t use brooms the first few days of the New Year… you’ll sweep away all the good luck.

That’s what my mom told me and I still do it to this day

So happy Chinese New Year here at ASE. We’ll see you next week.


#7 How I’m Taking Advantage of Having (Near) Zero Subscribers

There’s always an upside to a downside. Here are my thoughts on standing out and growing your audience when starting from scratch.

Show Notes

YouTube (first time on camera!)


What do you do if you’ve poured hundreds of hours into a podcast…

You’ve made six episodes and you have FIVE followers after two months, two of whom are probably your parents, and three of whom are good friends.

How do you keep on going in this game of attention where everyone is concerned about quantity?

Quantity of subscribers, quantity of views, downloads, listens…

How do you keep going when you have essentially zero followers?

This is what I want to talk about today: the zero follower game.

I’m your host Darren. Welcome to ASE.

So I have… I guess you could call it a life philosophy.

And that is there’s always an upside to a downside and a downside to an upside.

There’s always a good to a bad and a bad to a good.

You know what would be awesome?

Being LeBron James.

I would love to be LeBron James.

I could dunk on people

I’m one of the greatest basketball players of all time and basketball is my favorite sport.

I can make millions and millions of dollars every year.

I can start a school that inspires youth in my community.

I’m one of the most well known athletes in the world and what a platform that is.

That would be amazing.

Actually, all I can think about is dunking on someone. That sounds like the best part of that whole thing.

Here’s my point: as amazing as it would be to be LeBron James, there are some downsides.

Everywhere you go people are staring at you.

You can’t do anything in public without dozens of people screaming your name and wanting to take pictures of you.

Everyone in your orbit probably wants something from you.

Every minute of every game is watched with this giant camera following you all the time… in time outs, while you’re on the court, while you’re just relaxing…

There’s so much expectation for your performance every game.

You have to perform at the top level, and even what you say in media sessions after the games is dissected endlessly by sports TV shows, sports podcasts, and blogs.

That would get really tiring.

So there are some downsides to being LeBron James believe it or not.

And in the same way, I think that if you’re a creator and you’re starting something and you have millions of subscribers, I get why that’s amazing. That’s reach!

It’s not just what Facebook and YouTube are paying you per thousand of views and of your content, it’s the social proof to partner up with people to get advertisers.

And if you sell something on the back end, whether that’s a service or product, I get it.

If you have a million fans, a million subscribers, the top of your funnel is gonna be pretty big and that can only help you. I get all that because I host another podcast [The Touch MBA Podcast] and I have approached advertisers with my download numbers and my demographics of my audience to get them to sponsor the show.

But what’s the downside to having so many subscribers and so many views?

I had my own ideas, but of course, I want to hear from someone who actually has that.

So one of the YouTubers I’ve been following for a long time is Nigahiga. He has 21 million subscribers. He’s been doing this YouTube game for I think a decade now and at the beginning of last year he almost quit YouTube.

And so I watched his video on it. Why? Why would he do that with such enormous reach and popularity?

[Ryan Higa: I found myself falling into the typical YouTuber trap of trying to create videos that work versus trying to create videos that well you’re inspired to make. Things that you want make. Even if that means creating videos that I know for a fact that a lot of you guys probably not like or understand or most likely be offensive. The kind of videos I used to make when I first started Youtube you know when I wasn’t afraid of disappointing people or being too offensive or getting less views or whatever. I just finally realized at the end the last year that I was forcing myself to create videos that I don’t even feel like making…]

That’s the downside to having such a big audience.

So as a small fry, as someone who has essentially zero followers, what is the upside to that?

I think the first upside is that you can make art unencumbered.

You have pure creative freedom. You can do whatever the hell you want because you’re anonymous and there’s no expectations.

You have time to find your voice.

You have the freedom to put some wild shit out into the world because no one is expecting anything of you and that’s liberating.

I used to do stand-up comedy open mikes and I would prepare for days for five minutes on stage. Would I ever invite a good friend or even an acquaintance to come watch me?
No way. Because having that one person in the audience would make me so nervous.

But making jokes and making a fool out of myself in front of a hundred strangers? That’s no problem. So I know that there is some creative freedom involved with anonymity.

The second advantage you have as a small fry is that you can build these really intimate and personal relationships with your audience. That’s something that Nigahiga with 21 million subscribers or LeBron James with whatever 50 million Instagram followers can’t do. He can’t personally interact with his his audience.

Well, as a small fry you can.

Kevin Kelly has put forth this idea of having a thousand true fans and the idea is that if you can find a thousand raving fans that support your art, that support your show, that support your business, that are willing to give you a hundred dollars a year because they just love everything you do… That’s a nice income to live on, right?

And while I think it’s easier to do in theory than in practice, I think this frames the challenge of having zero followers the right way.

Which is don’t think in terms of quantity. Actually narrow your focus down.

And what I’m doing is I’m taking a thousand true fans and I’m narrowing that down further to a hundred true fans… actually at this stage with five followers, I’m narrowing that down even further to twenty people that would really love your content.

And the beauty of this approach is that you know who they are already.

If you go through your Facebook friends, if you go through your LinkedIn contacts, if you go through all your chat apps for the past month and a half… see all the people you’ve interacted with, all your emails and various groups you’re affiliated with… if you do that mental exercise, you’ll realize there’s probably at least 20 people who your content could potentially really help. So why not write all those people down?

Start with them in mind.

Make the show you want to make, that you have the creative freedom to make, that you think would be useful or fun.

But also keep these 20 people in mind and involve them in the process.

Thank every person who subscribes to your show. Form that connection with them. Ask them what they want, what their problems are, how you can help them, what resounded with them, what was useful to them, and build that personal relationship.

Because everyone right now is trying to win the quantity game. Quantity of subscribers, quantity of views, monetize my audience… Everyone’s trying to growth hack their way to that. So that’s a tougher game to play.

It’s a more competitive game to play. So why not go where there’s less competition and where you can really do things that those big guys can’t?

Which is be more attentive to your audience, be more service-oriented to your audience, connect more with your audience, do some crazy shit because you can.

Those are your advantages as a little guy and that’s how I’m thinking about having essentially zero followers.

Maybe this is mental gymnastics I’m doing to make myself feel better. To try to keep myself going, but I also think that if you’re not willing to keep producing work in whatever you feel is your calling, whatever that is… if you’re not willing to do that for months if not years in obscurity just for the sake of getting better at what you do for your professional and personal growth you’re probably in for a rude awakening in this ASE life because, yeah breakthroughs definitely happen and we want those but there’s a joy in the work itself and everyone has to start with zero followers essentially, right?

I guess that’s a little bit of tough love to think about

That’s what I’m thinking this week… forcing myself to get in front of a camera which I’m quite uncomfortable doing.

But I want to host and I know this is something I have to get better at so I’m gonna practice and I’m gonna keep trying and I’m gonna keep building my 5 person subscriber base on this channel. So those are my thoughts this week.

We’ll see you next week on ASE.

[Darren : Thank you so much for listening and if you enjoyed this episode, please press subscribe and leave us a review on your podcast app. It helps more people discover the show. Also you can find all the show notes and links mentioned in this episode at Hope to see you there.]


#6 Making a Living by Making a Difference with Ho Thai Binh

Binh and Darren in Saigon, 2019

“People need purpose to live.”

Ho Thai Binh

After graduating from one of Vietnam’s top universities and studying finance in Australia, Ho Thai Binh chose to return to his hometown, Vung Tau, and work for the provincial government. But that wasn’t enough to pay the bills nor “cool” enough for his girlfriend.  That was the turning point. Could he make a living by making a difference in Vietnam?  Binh shares how he has spent his 20s trying to solve social problems in Vietnam.


  • Building a social impact career in Vietnam (3:50)
  • Starting SSVN and SiGen (17:00)
  • Running a social enterprise (40:20)

Ho Thai Binh

Ho Thai Binh is Co-Founder and Director of Survival Skills SSVN, which provides first aid training in Vietnam, and SiGen, which develops mosquito free catch basins for urban sewers. Both enterprises won Top 10 Blue Venture Awards for social entrepreneurship in 2019. Binh graduated with a Bachelors of Commerce from RMIT Vietnam and got a Masters of Commerce in Applied Finance from the University of Queensland.

Show Notes

ASE Blog

The Pull-Up Principle

Our motivation is closely tied to our expectation of success.


The Pull-Up Principle.

This is Jimmy.

He’s an amazing salsa dancer and teacher, and he also loves food, especially this Mini Stop ice cream.

This is what he taught me:


Plus , it’d be nice to have some guns like that guy.

So I did. I started at 10 pull-ups a day along with Jimmy.

I mean this guy was a beast. It sucked. My hands were ripped, my shoulders were sore, but I kept going.

Honestly, the first two to three days were the toughest to continue, but I did.

10 pull-ups became 15 pull-ups. Then a couple weeks later 30 pull-ups a day. Then a couple months later 60 pull-ups a day

But I still couldn’t do a damn muscle up.

Being a gymnast I used to visualize my routines so I thought this should work here. I’d literally imagine myself doing one muscle-up, but I couldn’t get over the bar.

Then one day, when Jimmy wasn’t looking, it happened. And I did it again.

This was a special day. I did my first muscle up on September 23rd and that was also the name of our beloved park in Saigon. Full of savory and unsavory characters, kids, randomness, and of course, the bars.

It took me two and a half months to go from 10 pull-ups to 1 muscle-up. Two days later I did 10 muscle-ups. And a week later I even added my own moves.

So why does the pull-up principle work?

Our motivation is strongly tied to our expectation of success.

When you’re sure you can win your motivation is high.

I knew I could do at least the same number of pull-ups as the day before, and while I was there, why not try to do one more?

Plus, by consistently doing something I valued every day, I was telling myself, “Yeah Darren you’re getting stronger homie!”

So back to the bars.

How can you apply the pull-up principle to your fitness, to your work, and to your play?

How can you design tasks so that you know you can win?

So that you look forward to the challenge?

[Jimmy: I don’t know if I can do another one.
Darren: You better try!]

ASE Blog

#5 Decade in Review: Lessons from my 30s

Christmas in Mui Ne, Vietnam, with my dance tribe. Photo by ThuyTien Thi Nguyen

So long, 2010s!

I spent this decade trying to do creative, fulfilling work that could support a location independent lifestyle.

In my case, that was starting a business that gave world-class MBA admissions advice to thousands of applicants – especially from developing countries – for free.

This episode is quite personal and not easy to share, but I hope that it encourages you to do your own decade in review. Looking at the past 10 years:

  • What are you most proud of?
  • What were your biggest lessons? (hint: look at your failures)
  • What can you let go of moving into the next decade?

For me, these proud moments & lessons were:

  • Splitting Income from Time Working | Find and Nourish Tribes (1:53)
  • Living in Medellin, Colombia | Run Towards Dreams that Scare You  (8:26)
  • Dad’s Heart Surgery | Legacy is What You Give to Others (17:30)
  • The Flow of Life | Clear What, Flexible How (21:45)

Four lessons I need to re-member, re-learn and re-live. I often forget them, and fall short. Publishing them helps keeps me accountable.

Happy New Year everyone. Wishing you a thrilling and fulfilling next decade.

Show Notes


#4 Staying True to Your Art while Making a Living with Filmmaker Boo Junfeng

“The reason that I choose to look at the death penalty in Singapore or for Sandcastle, the story of political exiles, is precisely because the issues are something that I care about, and that is always kind of propelling me, even if things aren’t going well… to think that this is an important story, it matters to me, it matters to some people I know, and I have to put this out there.”

Boo Junfeng

Can you stay true to your art while making a living?  At age 15, Boo Junfeng knew he wanted to make films, even though this wasn’t a career path in Singapore. In this episode, Junfeng shares the career choices that allow him to make films close to his heart.


  • On calling, and balancing art and commerce (3:16)
  • Making Apprentice, his second feature film, over 6 years (16:45)
  • How Junfeng works (30:30)
  • Social media, censorship, and streaming (43:35)

Boo Junfeng

Boo Junfeng has written and directed two feature films – SANDCASTLE (2010) and APPRENTICE (2016), both screened at Cannes Film Festival, and several award-winning short films. In 2008, he became the first recipient of the McNally Award for Excellence in the Arts – the valedictorian honour of Lasalle College of the Arts. He was also accorded the Young Artist Award (2009) and the Singapore Youth Award (2011) by the Government of Singapore, and the Rising Director award at the Busan Film Festival (2016).

Show Notes


Now Showing

2020 is right around the corner.

What are your New Year’s resolutions?

This is what I’ve learned from setting goals for decades:


  • Do you want to get fit next year? Start now.
  • Do you want to make art next year? Start now.
  • Do you want to prioritize relationships next year? Start now.

Why wait for an arbitrary date to be your best?

How you benefit: 

  • You get a cheaper, emptier gym
  • You start your creative project and enter the new year with momentum
  • Years later, you remember 2019 for that holiday with loved ones

What you do now is infinitely more inspiring than what you say you’ll do in the future.