Well, here I am, sitting on a bench in Ho Chi Minh City’s airport just before my flight to Taiwan.
Why Am I Sitting Here?
It’s been a crazy 9 months in Vietnam. Moving here from Thailand without knowing anyone and helping build a world-leading marketing agency for SaaS (software as a service) businesses.
When I first moved, I was unhappy. There were many things that I complained about: the pollution, the traffic, the food not being the same as Thailand, and prices being expensive (it’s still cheap compared to western prices, but compared to Chiang Mai, it’s a 20% increase) – I miss Chiang Mai.
I’ve moved to several new cities in the past, so I thought this homesickness was normal.
Over time, I made friends with great people but still, things didn’t seem right. I still feel I don’t belong here.
I Feel Depressed
I had depression in 2016 so I know what it feels like – well, that’s what the doctor diagnosed me as. My current mood now… mm… yeah, it feels awfully similar to it.
I don’t know when, but I feel it began four months ago, back in May.
My friends from overseas came to visit me in Vietnam. We went on this massive roller coast journey across the country – 12-hour train rides, crazy boat rides, trekking through the jungle, camping inside the third largest cave in the world, and going to multiple cities along the way, all while I was working from a laptop.
Pro tip: Never work while on holiday / traveling. It’s not fun, especially when you have deadlines to meet.
Their next stop was South Korea.
What sucked the most was going on this epic journey and having to split in the middle of it.
This is when I realized I’m not as free as I thought I was. I mean, I could work whenever I liked, but not wherever I liked – I had to be in Vietnam.
Signing My Life Away
Coming back from this adventure, things soon took a shift in the opposite direction – mandatory office hours from 9 am – 6 am.
Wait, I didn’t sign up to this?
I thought I could work whenever and wherever I liked. That’s the reason I signed up for this gig. I can see it from my boss’ point of view: set routines and in-person communication is imperative if you want to build a world-leading SaaS marketing agency.
I was confused. I didn’t know what to do. Should I leave?
People would kill for a position like this – learning marketing from one of the world’s greatest.
Just before I could take in what was going on, I was offered equity in the company – equity, wow. The only catch was that it was a three to four year commitment in Ho Chi Minh City.
I said yes.
Don’t blame me, everyone does this.
You know how it goes. You hear stories of how people are always complaining about how much they hate their job but they still stay for the enticing salary. And, the moment a promotion comes up, they take it instantly without hesitation. Maybe because we feel obliged to climb the ranks of the corporate ladder – that’s what society conditioned us to do right? The catch with higher managerial positions is that they usually require you to stay for a year or two (or three) – similar to my situation, but instead of a promotion, its equity.
The Cookie Crumbles
From May to September, everything started crumbling apart slowly. My close friends could even feel it.
Some things that I noticed:
- Being all over the place and not focusing on one task/area
- Unmotivated to get out of bed every day
- Losing a lot of weight – I dropped to 57 kg.
- Not going to the gym. The times I did, my workouts were very mediocre
- I was screwing up a lot at work
- Little effort put into my social life – not keeping in contact with people or not following through with dates
Doing the same routine over and over again killed me and sucked all the creative energy out of me – I stopped thinking.
I just executed without thinking.
I felt like a mindless zombie.
I keep telling myself that I need to start something on the side so I can escape this routine. But, when you spend 10+ hours at the office, you just don’t have the energy to do anything after. The timing isn’t great either: when you finish work, you literally have time to do one thing (maybe two).
Let me explain.
I finish work at 6 pm (usually 6:30 pm). By the time I get home, it would be 7 pm. Grabbing dinner, it would be 8 pm by the time I finish. If I want to hit 8 hours of sleep, I would have to go to bed by 11 pm (wake up at 8 am). This leaves me with 3 hours to play with.
I could then either:
- Work on side projects – Good 3 hours spent before 11 pm.
- Go to the Gym – 2.5 hours spent – 20-minute commuting, one hour working out, 20 minutes commuting back, and showering. Imagine doing this three times a week. This would leave me with only two days left in the workweek.
- Go out (maintain social relationships) – minimum 3 hours – commuting, hanging out and commuting back.
Time is very scarce when you have a fulltime job – even more scarce when it’s a startup and you have to put work out of hours.
What I struggled the most was prioritizing what was more important: A healthy body (gym), a healthy social/dating life or hitting my financial goals(side projects).
I’m all over the place, focusing on too many things all at once.
I need more time.
I told myself maybe it’s time to move on. I feel I’m getting demising returns in terms of learning. However, maybe I haven’t learned everything yet, I should stay longer – this was the excuse I told myself in June (one month when I started feeling depressed). However, I think the main reason I didn’t leave my job back then was that I was too scared, too scared to pull the trigger.
This feels like a repeat of my last job, where things dragged out for 6 months. I hated my last job 2 weeks in.
Well, long story short, I left the company.
Here are things that finally gave me the courage to move forward:
Fortune Favors the Bold
Okay, I’m scared. I’m scared because I have no plan at all. I’m a broke guy trying to make ends meet with a very minimal runway.
I don’t know what I’m doing.
However, if you think about it, all the greatest people in history didn’t know what they were doing before they were successful. All they had was a vision or a purpose, and they just went for it.
Me? I know my purpose – to be financially free and location independent.
I know I have the skills to make it a reality. It’s not a matter of “how”, but a matter of “when”.
I feel like a fake sometimes. I hang out with all these successful entrepreneurs that are living the life I’m chasing and I’m not even at their level.
Do I have the right to hang out with them?
To be honest, they’re not that much different from you or I – the only difference is that they took the leap and dividends are being paid out.
I’m in the right environment to make things happen. The quote: “You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with” – Yes, I have this sorted – check.
Yes, I will fail. I know that. I’m expecting it. However, I also know that I will succeed.
I have two people that fully believe that I can make my dream a reality. These two people don’t just make wild claims, they’re much smarter than that. They can see it. So, if they believe in me, then I guess it’s just a matter of “when”.
Going forward, I need to have more faith in myself. I have a valuable skill that not many people have and I’m in the right environment with the right people.
If Not Now, Then When?
I thought about it. I’ll put my dreams and aspirations aside for 3-4 years while I sort my finances out. When I have that sorted, I can then continue on with my dreams.
No – that’s not how things work in life.
“Oh, I’ll work really hard for 10 to 20 years. I’ll invest in real estate during this time and once I have enough passive income, I can then retire and travel the world.”
I’m sure this is what most people think.
Next thing you know, you’re gonna have a wife, kids, and a mortgage to pay.
Now, equity in this company is nice, but another three years in Vietnam? Look, Vietnam is nice, but I don’t think I can last a full year.
I need a break from it all:
- The pollution
- The traffic and trying not to die from it daily
- The language barrier
- People thinking I’m Vietnamese every time and just start talking Viet to me
- Stupid people
I could make this list longer, but I won’t go there – maybe I’ll save that for another post…
My friend gave a great perspective on life. It went something along the lines of:
“I have enough to get by. Why would I want to waste my youth chasing even more money? I’m still young, I have all the time in the world to make money, but chasing the highs of life in my youth, no.”
I’m 24. It’s the best time to make as many mistakes as humanly possible – calculated mistakes that is.
My biggest regret is if I was to turn 27 and had spent another 3 years in Vietnam, I would say: “I wish I took the leap when I was 24”.
What’s the Plan?
So here I am, on a plane leaving out of Vietnam as I write this.
I’m gonna start something that is going to allow me to be free – financial independence and location independence.
I don’t have a plan, but I have an idea.
I’m might fail. I might succeed. There are going to be bumps along the way. It’s not going to be a smooth ride. No one’s going to be holding my hand. It’s going to be lonely. There will be times where I will tell myself “What are you doing… Go home”. But, it’s a challenge I’m willing to accept.
All I know is I’m going to suck on the bones of life – sucking all the marrow until there’s nothing more.
I’m gonna be the black sheep that creates a lifestyle that normal people dream (or die trying). Even if I fail, people will still admire that I went for it.
The people that reap the most out of life are the ones that take the most risks.