Who is Colin Wright and why is he in Exile?
Colin is an entrepreneur and blogger who travels every four months to a new country at the will of a vote from his readers! He recently released his own prose-like book of experiences that most people call a memoir that’s cheaper than coffee. If you’re at all interested in entrepreneurship and the travel lifestyle, you might want to get this!
I had a chance to interview Colin, in anticipation of his new book and here are the results. Let me know what you think by leaving a comment. Are the interviews helpful? What kind of people would you like to see featured in the Purple Panda?
You’ve described yourself as a “sustainable designer” in the past when you were still doing studio work. Do you still do any design for clients or have you completely transitioned out of that? What exactly does a sustainable designer mean?
I still do that kind of work from time to time, but I’m very careful as to what projects I take on; most of what comes in I’ll hand off to someone else whose work I trust and work-ethic I respect.
That being said, if a project comes in that’s from a past client that I liked working with, or is recommended from by one of those past clients, I’ll consider it. I’ll also consider fun projects, projects that allow me to do something unique or interesting, or projects where I think a little of my effort can have a huge impact.
For example, I recently did some work for the band Pomplamoose (CD-sleeve, poster and t-shirts for their tour), because they are 1) past clients that I like working with, 2) a band with work that I respect, and 3) a duo who was offering me work that I like to do (in this case, illustrative work).
As for being a sustainable designer, I usually use it to mean that I’ll design around making the project as carbon-neutral as possible, or the least-damaging to the environment possible. This means using specific types of papers and inks, moving away from printing in favor of digital methods of communicating, and figuring out ways to reduce packaging. There are a lot of ways to tackle this, and everyone does it differently, but yeah, lots of ways to make things even a teensy bit better for the environment, and every little bit helps.
Can you tell us about the projects you’re currently involved in that make up your bread & butter?
I’ve got a few books for sale (Networking Awesomely was selling for $20, but I recently knocked it down to $.99, and my newest book, My Exile Lifestyle, is being sold for $2.99 right out of the gate).
I sell t-shirts through I Have No Shirt.
I run Ebookling, and although it’s profitable, I’m not making any money from that just yet. The idea there is to turn independent authors into ‘authorpreneurs’ who are in control of their work and their finances.
I’ve got a membership-paid forum called Most Interesting People in the Room.
I just finished up the aforementioned work for Pomplamoose, and I’m building a new website and brand-guide for a client of mine who is a life coach for millionaire CEOs.
I do a little travel writing for Flightster.
I might be forgetting something, but those are the main sources of income at the moment. It changes up fairly frequently, though, which is just how I like it!
I’ve always thought that entrepreneurs usually have shown entrepreneur potential in childhood, which is when people first start to develop their passions. Do you think entrepreneurship can be learned, or is it a trait that some people naturally have more than others? If you showed no entrepreneurial spirit as a child, for example, do you think people have a “chance” when they’re adults?
Oh sure, I think anyone can be an entrepreneur, it’s just about wanting it. I would say the only aspect of entrepreneurship that can’t be taught and learned is the desire to create, and if you don’t have that you can still run a business successfully, you probably just won’t be the kind of uber-driven business owner that has become a bit of a rockstar archetype of late (and there’s nothing wrong with that).
I’d say most people who don’t show entrepreneurial potential as a child but end up becoming interested later, however, were probably just unaware it was an option, or busy with something else. I started my first business at 19, and although I now wish I would have started sooner, I also know that everything leading up to that point was important in my development; there were a whole lot of other interests that made me who I am and that had nothing to do with entrepreneurship, but that ended up being equally important. The same could be said for anyone…whose to say the 60-year-old who starts their first business isn’t just as capable as the 20-year-old? They’ve got a great deal of experience under their belts, and experiences that make them unique from the majority of entrepreneurs these days. That variety is what makes the entrepreneurial environment so lush and wonderful!
Leadership and entrepreneurship often go hand in hand. Do you believe reluctant leaders, or introverts can become entrepreneurs? How can introverts show leadership?
I’m a natural introvert, and it’s been a huge battle over the years to get myself to step up and happily take the leadership role that I’ve always been put in regardless of my desire to be there. Now that I’ve embraced it, however, I’ve never been happier. It’s still stressful sometimes, and there ARE tradeoffs, but it’s totally worth it.
I main thing I usually tell other introverts about being leaders is that there MUST be something they really want to achieve, otherwise they won’t have the motivation necessary to keep working at it until they feel more comfortable. For me, it was the desire to run a kick-ass design studio someday…I knew I couldn’t do it alone, and I also knew that no one would want to work for a guy who couldn’t interact with others well, so I’d better get cracking on the whole leadership thing. For each person it will be something different, but it has to be something you want bad enough to really kick your own ass in pursuit of it.
Other than that, just do your best to be the person who isn’t afraid to take responsibility. It helps to remember that failing is a good thing…that way if you fail after taking responsibility, you won’t lock yourself in your room and never come out after it happens (which is an inevitable part of the process).
Any advice for people unemployed in the current recession or trying to make the transition from unemployed to self-employed, like me?
Just keep at it.
No one can stop you from doing what you want for a living but yourself; no one is sitting in a back room thinking ‘I’m going to keep them from being happy! Muahaha!’ That doesn’t mean that your first idea for a business or product or service will be the right one, but be willing to adapt everything aside from your happiness, and things will turn out just peachy.
Also: don’t be afraid to self-promote and be confident while being fully aware that you don’t know everything.
Do you have a favorite place or country you’ve been to so far?
Nope! They’ve all been wonderful for some reasons and horrible for others, my home country (the US) included!
I’ve learned completely different things and met completely different people in each location, as well. I wouldn’t give up any of those experiences for anything.
There are a ton of different travelers as there are people! Yet everyone seems to think we are all “thrillseekers” and “adventurers”. What’s your idea of adventure and thrillseeking?
I like thrilling adventures as much as the next person, but if I have my choice, I’d much rather be taking risks with my lifestyle and businesses and such than riding roller coasters or skydiving or whatnot. Nothing wrong with those types of thrills, they just don’t do much for me (while sitting in a room and brainstorming crazy branding ideas or creating new businesses I can’t afford to run gets my blood pumping like crazy and puts a smile on my face every time).
What scares you? How do you deal with fear?
Very few things these days, actually.
I am concerned that one day I’ll lose the drive that keeps me plowing forward through life, and this is partially because I remember what it was like not having it. I know that it’s possible to live in that kind of stagnation for years and years and not even realize it, and I’m terrified that I’ll wake up one day and just feel very little of what I feel now and not know how to get myself back on the rails (or if I even CAN get back on those rails).
It sounds a little silly, I know, especially considering all the crazy dangerous situations I’ve found myself in since I started traveling, but I figure wounds heal and if I die, well, I won’t be too concerned about anything at that point, but if I were to continue to live and not have anything to live for…that’s the stuff my nightmares are made of.
I deal with that fear the same way I deal with anything: practically and rationally. I have filled my life with people who inspire me and things that I enjoy doing, with plenty of other options to hop to if I get bored of any one project or lifestyle. I’m going to keep on shifting and hopping and evolving and moving, and if I still derail with all of those failsafes in place, well, there’s probably nothing I could have done about it anyway and I’ll just have to face that music.
Name three challenges that you have right now.
At the moment, the challenges at the forefront of my mind are:
1) I just spent an exorbitant amount of money on dental work…who knew crowns could be so expensive, and that becoming adult would mean getting them? In any case, I was planning on hopping around quite a bit while back in the States, visiting friends in addition to a few meetings I need to take in various places around the country. I had budgeted a certain amount of money to spend while here on travel, but I’ve already spent more than that on these damn teeth. I still want to travel, however, so I’m trying to figure out a good way to make that money without further tapping into my slush fund or pushing any more products on my readers (something I try not to do too often, because that would annoy me, and I don’t want to annoy them).
2) I dated a girl in Iceland for about a month that I really like, and being back in the States has made me realize that I like her even more than I originally thought. I’m hoping she’ll come visit me in India (my next home), but at the same time I’m trying to figure out how to manage the relationship. Do I allow it to go further and play it by ear? Do I keep things at arm’s length, knowing that we won’t be able to visit each other as often as we would like? Am I worrying to much? No idea. Untried territory since I started traveling, this kind of thing, as most relationships I get in have a very firm deadline.
3) I’ve been working with a great developer on Ebookling, but he’s getting married and has other projects he needs to work on, and finding talented, creative developers in the current startup environment is INCREDIBLY difficult, especially when you are paying in equity, not money.
What’s next for you? Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
Well, I’ll be back in the States for a month or two, and then I’ll be moving to India. In the interim, I’m fielding TV and movie opportunities (weird), trying to sort out my various projects and figuring out where to put my effort (and find the right people to help me take them to the next level), and always, ALWAYS reassessing everything I’m doing to make sure that I’m still on a track that is making me happy and fulfilled (at the moment at least, I definitely am!).
Five years? I really have no clue, and I don’t really care what I’m doing so long as I’m still as happy (or happier) as I am now.
Thank you, Colin for taking the time to be interviewed!