In early 2012, I was slurping down phở in Saigon’s tourist district with a good friend. A tanned man walked by us hawking a gigantic crate of sunglasses. We tried to ignore him, but he wouldn’t leave us alone. He’d shine his electric smile, shout, or light a pair of sunglasses on fire and then bend the frames as if putting on a magic show. I didn’t need sunglasses but this guy was just too good. I bought a pair.
It made me wonder how such hawkers survive and what I could learn from them… so I googled “street mba.” Nothing. Then “tropical mba.”
What I found changed my life.
The first link was to The Tropical MBA Podcast. The podcast badge looked hokey with a coconut tree a la Tim Ferriss’ 4 Hour Work Week. But, I promised I’d give it a listen when I got home.
Five minutes into the show I was hooked. The hosts were building a location independent business, and interviewing friends doing the same. They had a 2-3 year head start on this path, and they spoke directly to the joys and challenges of my experience. I would tune in every “Thursday, 8am Eastern Standard Time” and look forward to their silly banter and deep insights from operating in this space. Sometimes an episode wouldn’t show up until the following Thursday. I would keep refreshing my podcast apps… nothing. I’d be super bummed! This show really was a lifeline.
Long story short, I ended up going to their first conference in Bangkok in 2012, which motivated me to stay on the path. I joined their private membership group, the Dynamite Circle, and lunched with many famous and soon to be famous authors and entrepreneurs, right here in Saigon. Most importantly, I made a handful of meaningful friendships that have lasted till today.
Without their podcast, and the relationships I made through their audience all around the world, I would not have been able to build Touch MBA, which unlocked 3 life dreams: getting to choose my work on a daily basis, living in Colombia and writing a book.
This all came full circle last Thursday, when after 10 years of listening to their show, I “appeared” on the Tropical MBA Podcast.
I’m thankful for Dan Andrews and his team, particularly his producer Jane, for giving me this opportunity to share my story. The title, “The Lonely Path of the Solopreneur,” while sad, is exactly the message I want to convey: there are true costs to this life, and we should prepare for them. There needs to be more discussion about entrepreneurial well-being, and more honest discussion about the costs of pursuing the creativity, freedom, adventure and meaning we so desperately crave.
As Dan notes, perhaps many of my lessons are less from being a solopreneur and more from having worked for 20 years and maturing as a human being. Perhaps. Ten years on this path has taught me that each of us must pay special attention to the benchmarks (and stories) that drive so much of our lives. If that message comes through in this episode, I would be happy enough.