Colin Wright is an author, entrepreneur, and full-time traveller. He has written a few dozen books, spread out across both fiction and nonfiction. He co-founded Asymmetrical Press with his business partners. He run’s a blog that brings in a few million readers a year, and he moves to a new country every four months, based on the votes of those readers. In between he gives talks on topics ranging from nonstandard lifestyle choices to the future of the publishing industry.
My Definition of Success | To me, success is the freedom to spend my time and energy however I please. This means that I can wake up when I want, work on whatever I want, spend my time with whomever I want, waste my time, invest my time, travel to any place I want to go, and be able to experiment with and change my habits without worrying about severe repercussions.
At one point, I had a more metrics-based definition of success, one that largely revolved around making more money and accumulating greater amounts of prestige. Today, I’m far more concerned about making the best possible use of the resources I have (including time, money, energy) so that I’m always working on things that inspire me, able to bring greater quantities of value into the world, and capable of developing at a pace that’s more aligned with how I want to grow.
I Am Driven By | The awareness that I have exactly one life in which to do everything I’ll ever do. That any moment spent doing something that doesn’t fulfill me, or lead to greater fulfillment, is time that I’ll never get back.
My Highlights | I’m most proud of the risks I’ve taken. Also that I’ve never lost sight of how much I have left to grow (an infinite amount!) when I experience success, and that I always get back up and try again when I fail.
A lot of these risks, successes, and failures have revolved around my professional life: starting businesses, quitting jobs, writing books, etc. Others have been lifestyle oriented, like deciding to travel full-time and restructuring my entire life around that goal, and trying out new types of relationships and evolving how I interact with people. None of these things were easy or guaranteed to succeed, but in addition to taking the jump, these have been risks they’ve paid off immensely; far more than anything else I’ve ever accomplished, I think.
The Difference between Good and Great | The latter group contains people who aren’t just passionate about their work, and don’t just work hard, and weren’t just born with some bit of talent. It’s people who have those attributes, but who are also driven by something deeper; a philosophy that compels them to do better every day. To create something or evolved something or achieve something.
A Key Talent | Knowing myself has been vital to everything I’ve done and accomplished. By knowing yourself, you’re capable of cutting out the excess and homing in on what’s really important. It allows you to focus and refine, and spend immense amounts of time developing skills and bodies of knowledge, and doing so gladly. Because you enjoy it, know it’s important, and find fulfillment in the process.
The first step is to take some time to deep-dive. I take twenty minutes a day to sit and do nothing: no work, no tapping my feet, no listening to music or podcasts, just sitting and staring at a wall, thinking. It’s amazing how much you can work out about yourself, what you’re doing, and what you should be doing if you force yourself to do nothing for a while. I then allow my thoughts to go wherever they may. After a few weeks of this, years ago, I decided to make it an everyday thing. It was that valuable in helping me suss out how to best spend my time and other resources.
Once you’ve figured out who you are and what fulfills you, it’s important to ‘walk the walk.’ That is, to adjust your life to fit this knowledge. For me, that meant changing my career, my lifestyle, my habits, my relationships. It meant changing everything to calibrate with this new knowledge that I possessed because if I wasn’t living in the best way possible for me, what exactly what I doing?
This creates a more direct path to where you want to be and what you want to accomplish. It will likely change over time, and it isn’t easy in the sense that it will just work. But it does ensure you spend more of your time doing what fulfills you, and that calibrates you toward success in your chosen field.
Tenacity allows you to push through the difficult parts to get to the good stuff.
Humility, of the sort I’m talking about, keeps you level and reminds you that no matter how good you are, there’s always room to grow, and always more to know. It’s not about keeping your head down and speaking softly, it’s about knowing that you’re worthwhile and talented, but keeping that knowledge in perspective so that you don’t plateau (or become arrogant and intolerable).
Friendliness ensures that your relationships — business and personal — are more valuable. It makes people more likely to want to have you around and help you out. It helps stack the deck in your favor, while also making the world around you a more pleasant place for everyone.
Principles I Live By | Treat people well. Be curious and follow that curiosity. Seek out knowledge and apply it to how you live. You only get one life, and you should spend the time you have doing things that fulfill you. If you’re going to do something, you’ll probably enjoy it more if you learn to do it more skillfully. Learn to communicate clearly, regardless of the format (speaking, writing, visuals, performance, etc.). Surround yourself with people you like, and don’t do business with jerks; life’s too short for that. Don’t let fear or an aversion to risks keep you from living fully and happily.
Critical Skills I Develop | Communication has been big for me, and most of my education revolved around visual communication: painting, drawing, graphic design, illustration. Writing came later, but it’s just as valuable and enjoyable to me. Public speaking is relatively new to me, but I find that no matter the media, learning to communicate translates well, so long as you learn to do it once. Learn to paint, and you’ll likely be pretty good at building websites once you practice the tools. Learn to act, and you’ll probably have a leg-up when it comes to designing magazines, once you practice the tools.
The fundamentals of money and business are also super-valuable, whatever you intend to do with them. I learned them in order to more successfully run a business, but I find they’re just as valuable, if not more so, when applied to lifestyle and personal goals. Making what you do sustainable over time is key, if you want to keep doing it, and growing as a person.
How I Use My Mind | I think a whole lot. That’s been my secret; giving myself plenty of time to just think. In this way, less time spent ‘doing things’ results in more, better work. It’s like sharpening an axe blade before cutting down a tree. You can spend more time swinging, or more time sharpening. Do the latter and you’ll have to swing less when you’re ready to?
Also, staying morally relative is useful. It means recognizing that every person grew up with different circumstances, and as a result thinks differently than you. Keep that in mind, and it’s much easier to find solutions to problems, be culturally malleable, and figure out what kind of lifestyle, tools, etc. are right for you, because all options will be on the table.
Lessons I Have Learnt | There’s not really an absolute right or wrong for anything; just more right and more wrong for you.
Also, if you do something you love, and even when the work is difficult or tedious it will be fulfilling.
Dealing with Doubt | I tend to see it as a challenge, and something worth conquering, if prudent.
I’ve had plenty of difficult, fearful moments in my life. I find that saying ‘This is what I do’ and just doing it helps. Creating habits around not overthinking things that tie your stomach in knots will help too.
I remember the first time I was giving a talk in front of a crowd of a few hundred people, and my breathing was off, my heart was racing, and I was feeling like I was going to fail horribly in front of everyone. But I told myself ‘This is what I do’ and decided to check in with myself and think about the risk I’m taking afterwards. In that way, I was able to focus on getting it done rather than worrying over all the potential negative consequences.
Performing At My Peak | I don’t know that anyone is always performing at their peak, but taking stock and noticing what variables allow you to get into that ‘flow’ state helps. As does keeping yourself healthy and happy. General good maintenance for a person, just like for a car, tends to make more difference in how both perform than anything too dramatic.
Resources I Use to Stay Inspired | I’m reading all the time: books, websites, the news. Everything. I try to stay informed about a lot of different topics, catch up on pop culture from time-to-time, and am always exploring industries, topics, bodies of knowledge that I know nothing about. This variation helps me stay creative, but also allows me to grow my ‘big picture’ view of the world and make new connections constantly.
I also read fiction every night before going to sleep. This helps with sleep, but also has been shown to increase empathy and overall brain function for days afterward.
My Future Dreams and Ambitions | I want to keep experimenting and trying out different lifestyles. I want to visit and experience more cultures, meet more amazing people. I want to enable more people to do the same, and build more platforms from which to share what I’m learning, and from which to learn more.
The Meaning of Life | I don’t think there is an absolute meaning. I think everyone finds their meaning, hopefully, and pursues it to fulfillment.
The Best Advice I’ve Received | Don’t worry.
Advice on Building Wealth | Know why you’re doing it. Accumulating money for the sake of accumulating money tends to make people very flat human beings, and very unhappy. Have meaning in your life, though, and money can be an excellent resource to make the world you want to see. From there, everything you’ll have to do to get that money — all the hard work and sacrifice — will be much easier.
On Inspiring Others | Have a clear philosophy and explain it clearly; tell the story well. I want to work with people who want to be there, doing the work we’re doing. Anything less than that is paying someone to put aside their own dreams and purpose, and I don’t want that kind of dynamic.
To find these people, I build platforms (like my blog) and write about what I do and why I do it. Do this enough, and you tend to draw the right people to you.
I Am Inspired By | I’m constantly inspired by people from all walks of life, all economic statuses, and genders and cultures and everything. I have yet to find someone who I agree with completely on everything, and as such finding mentors and complete role models has been difficult. But I’m able to find something in everyone to respect and learn from, so in a way the entirety of humanity teaches me and helps me grow.
The Legacy I Would Like To Leave | Hopefully people think my presence was a net-gain for the world; that I added something positive, rather than making it a worse place, or taking away from it.