Colin Wright – Founder of Exile Lifestyle

[quote style=”boxed”]If you know a lot about a lot of different things, seldom will you be lost for ideas, innovations, conversation topics or friends. Making big picture connections successfully requires as much knowledge as possible to work with and if you can find relationships between truly disparate things, you can upend any industry with a snap of your fingers. Plus, it just makes you a more well-rounded individual. I owe a great deal of my happiness to what I’ve learned about the world and about myself. It’s amazing what perspective can do for your quality of life.[/quote]

Colin Wright is a twenty-something serial entrepreneur, author and full-time traveler.

Educated in design and illustration, Colin started his first business while still in college. After finishing school, he moved to L.A. and started a branding studio. The studio was wildly successfully financially, but the hours he was putting in caused him to realize that traditional entrepreneurship wasn’t the path he wanted to take. In 2009, he got rid of everything he owned that wouldn’t fit into a carry-on bag, revamped his studio so that it could be run from the road, left the U.S. and began moving to a new country every 4 months based on the votes of his (newly created) blog readers.

Colin continues to live his life on the road, moving to a new country every 4 months. While traveling, he runs a handful of businesses, self-publishes books and does all he can to learn more about the cultures he lives in.

What are you working on right now?

At the moment, I’m doing brand consultation work for some of my older clients, design and illustration work for my really fun (mostly music) clients, experimenting with different publishing business models and continuing to build my reputation as a speaker and networker by giving presentations and making connections everywhere I go.

Where did the idea for Exile Lifestyle come from?

Honestly, I had been putting off traveling for a very long time; I had been in startup mode from age 19 onward. By the time I was 24, I realized that I was going to hit 30 a very wealthy person, but without much real world experience.

That realization led me to drop everything and start restructuring. It took me a week to decide on a rough game plan and that’s when I set up my blog, Exile Lifestyle. Through it, I started making connections and announcing plans, making them more official and ironclad. I was also able to leverage the knowledge I already had about business, branding and the like into value for others who helped me learn how to be location independent and embrace the alternative lifestyle.

Four months after I decided I wasn’t getting what I wanted out of life, I was packed up and ready to go. I boarded a plane to Argentina and life hasn’t been the same since.

What does your typical day look like?

My days are quite unstructured, and a “typical” day can vary greatly depending on what country I’m in and what I’m working on at the time.

For example, I may be on a road trip around the U.S., in which case I may drive 14 hours to my next stop or grab drinks at a Tweetup I’m attending with my hosts. Or I may be in Iceland putting together a networking party for the evening and exploring the hidden corners of Reykjavik during the day. Or maybe I’m in Calcutta, in which case I may wake up late, indulge in a big lunch and sit around writing for a bit before heading to the gym and taking in a movie.

The important thing to know about my day: I do exactly what I want, with whomever I want, whenever I want 98% of the time. The other 2% I’m doing my taxes.

How do you bring ideas to life?

Using whatever resources are available.

In a lot of cases, this has meant building a small business around a concept or designing some kind of poster or graphic that will convey what I want to express.

Lately I’ve been doing a lot more writing, which has been fun, as it’s something that I’ve always loved to do. Books, serials, newsletters, blogs; I write anything I can figure out how to deliver. Being able to share my ideas with others and then getting feedback and hearing other peoples’ ideas is one of the best aspects of my life.

What’s one trend that really excites you?

It’s hard to choose just one, but at the moment I’m super-psyched about where publishing is going.

The old gatekeepers are becoming more and more irrelevant (mostly their own fault), and that’s opening all kinds of doors for people like me who have things to say, but traditionally wouldn’t have had many options in where to say them. We could have shouted concepts from rooftops and reached a few dozen people, but now we can create ebooks and reached hundreds of thousands.

It’s a heady feeling and it’s a field that is innovating FAST. It seems like every day there’s something new to get wide-eyed over and try out. The potential for innovative business models alone is enough to get any entrepreneur all atwitter with anticipation.

What was the worst job you ever had and what did you learn from it?

I’ve actually been pretty lucky when it comes to jobs and even the ones I had as a kid (babysitting, dusting bookstore shelves) had their charms; and I liked the people I worked with.

Even the last job I had (and the last one I’ll ever have) was great until the very end when the owner tried to screw me over with all kinds of wild accusations and legal threats (apparently a trend with this guy when he thinks his former employees might become competitors).

Frankly, though, without that initial scare to jump-start me, I doubt I would have been aggressive right out the door in finding clients for my studio and building a network worth calling an asset in Los Angeles. So instead of learning something sad like “don’t trust anyone” or “aways have a good lawyer handy,” I learned that  as long as you are good at what you do, no one can stop you from succeeding.

If you were to start again, what would you do differently?

Not a thing. I’m thrilled about where I am now and if I would have changed absolutely anything, I wouldn’t be where I am today. Regrets are purposeless in my mind and one of the best skills one can work on is being able to turn bad luck and bad choices into good luck by making good choices.

As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?

Learn. Constantly. Always be learning. It’s amazing to me how “cool” it has become to be ignorant. Not to know about some field or industry or whatnot. As if not knowing shows how important you are…this trend seems to say something about the upper-management a lot of people are trying to emulate with their nonchalance.

If you know a lot about a lot of different things, seldom will you be lost for ideas, innovations, conversation topics or friends. Making big picture connections successfully requires as much knowledge as possible to work with and if you can find relationships between truly disparate things, you can upend any industry with a snap of your fingers. Plus, it just makes you a more well-rounded individual. I owe a great deal of my happiness to what I’ve learned about the world and about myself. It’s amazing what perspective can do for your quality of life.

What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?

I’ve got a publishing model that I’m using with a project called Exiles and I hope to refine it enough that any author can take it and sustain himself/herself so they can focus on their work, rather than having to write as a second job.

It works a bit like an old-school serialized novel would. People subscribe to Exiles for $36/year or $5/month and in exchange they get 5 new chapters of an ongoing book (stories and thoughts from the road) every 2 weeks. Additionally, yearly subscribers receive a free copy of every book I produce while they subscribe.

The benefit for the subscribers is that they get a lot of content (which presumedly they want) for little money ($3/month for the yearly subscribers). The benefit for me is that I have my writing activities essentially funded by a group of beneficiaries. They pay me to write and what I write may eventually go into my new books (a lot of the content I’ve written for Exiles will be in my follow-up My Exile Lifestyle, a book I wrote last year).

It’s a bit like crowdsourcing your own Medici and in doing it you create a virtuous cycle in which you’re able to consistently produce more assets (books) by providing a service (the serialized content) to a group of people who want more of both.

This system is working quite well already, but I’m convinced I can tweak it further for even better results. I’m also doing it with narrative non-fiction and essays and I imagine a fictional approach would work a bit differently, though perhaps even better if set-up right (either with short fiction or a continuous set of stories in the same world or with the same characters).

Tell us a secret.

Through most of my teens, almost all the money I earned was spent on Mountain Dew, Pizza Rolls, magic cards and Dungeons & Dragons.

What are your three favorite online tools and what do you love about them?

  • Gmail: it’s my hub of communication. Everything I do online (more or less) goes through Gmail and I’m able to retain a copy of all that activity as a result. I’m an Inbox Zero guy so rather than being a source of stress, I look forward to answering my emails and using my inbox as a to-do list. Then I can just label and archive correspondences.
  • Evernote: I like having all of my writing and notes synced and available from any computer, any device, anywhere. This is one of those free services I’ll continue to gladly pay for because it’s something I wish I would have invented and it helps me stay so organized.
  • MailChimp: I’m focusing so much on publishing right now that I have to mention my newsletter service. It helps me keep in touch with my newsletter subscribers, as well as the folks who pay for Exiles subscriptions. It’s well-designed, everything works snappily and it’s the kind of service that you look forward to using because it’s got a sense of humor while also being powerful.

What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?

If you’re at all interested in business or entrepreneurship, you should pick up a copy of The Personal MBA by Josh Kaufman.

I’m a self-trained (read: trial-and-error) business person and I learned a lot from this book, even though I had already read most of the books Josh summarizes in it. People who haven’t had the experiences I’ve had or who come from a different business background will likely discover even more, or at worst will enjoy it as a great review of the most important business concepts.

What’s on your playlist?

Let’s see, the last ten tracks I listened to were:

  • Ashes to Ashes by Warpaint
  • Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots Part 1 by The Flaming Lips
  • Ampersand by Amanda Palmer
  • Nashville Parthenon by Casiotone for the Painfully Alone
  • Chasing it Down by Mother Mother
  • I’m on Fire by The Chromatics
  • Islands by The xx
  • Back in Your Head by Tegan and Sara
  • Play Your Part (Pt. 1) by Girl Talk
  • Last Person by Jenny Owen Youngs

I’ve also got a Spotify playlist I put together to get music recommendations from readers, which can be found here if anyone wants to help build the rockingest playlist ever.

If you weren’t working on Exile Lifestyle, what would you be doing?

Oh man. Well, I’d probably be either continuing to expand my studio in L.A. or I may have taken an opportunity that involved becoming the protege of a big-name money market client. Either one would probably have led to me to having far more money in my bank account, but a lot less happiness in my life.

Three people we should follow on Twitter and why?

  • @kenjennings: the best Jeopardy player to ever be on the show and one of the funniest Tweeps I follow.
  • @mental_floss: not really a person, but a series of people sending out snippets of interesting info and links to even larger chunks of interesting info.
  • @brainpicker: Maria routinely has some of the most interesting and informative tweets in my feed.

When was the last time you laughed out loud? What caused it?

I was reading a conversation between a gal I once dated and a gal I’m currently dating on their Facebook walls. Each comment was well-worded, clever and totally inappropriate. I guess I have a type.

Who is your hero?

Honestly, I operate best when I think of myself as the hero of my own storyline. There are plenty of other people I look up to, but I’ve yet to come across someone that’s made me say, “I want to be them.” That would seem a little pointless…the world doesn’t need duplicates, it needs novel ideas and approaches. Also, trying to live up to someone else’s standards is a great way to drive yourself to drink.

Professional victory of note?

It sounds silly, but I’m still quite proud of myself for learning Flash in a weekend back in college. I was waiting tables at the time, but a job opened up at my school that I was qualified for, except that I wasn’t old enough, far along enough in my studies or know Flash. I convinced them that the other 2 things didn’t matter during the interview, but the issue of Flash didn’t come up, so I didn’t bring it up, figuring I would learn it before my first day.

Turned out they wanted me to start on Monday and it was Friday. I hunkered down in my apartment with tutorials and guides all weekend, sleeping a few hours here and there. When I walked in the doors early Monday morning, I wasn’t a Flash master, but I was good enough that someone would say I “knew Flash.”

This led me to look at learning in a very different way than I had previously.  I realized I could learn ANYTHING with enough focus, and with enough motivation and caffeine, I could even do so quickly.

Are you left-handed? Can you do yo-yo tricks? Do you have the high-score on 5 Tetris arcade machines around the world? Can you juggle 4 balls?

Yes, yes, yes and no (I can only juggle 3 so far).


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