Learning to code, digital nomadism, the problems with school and ethics in marketing with Brandon Olin

I explore with Brandon Olin why and how he learned to code in his thirties and is switching career after many years in e-commerce. We also explore the problems with school, ethics in marketing, digital nomad lifestyle and learning.

[00:00:00] Benjamin Spring: Hello everyone. And welcome to the sideaway where we cover interesting topics, such as learning new, valuable skills and interesting career path for the young and curious mind. In this episode, I had a conversation with Brandan Olin. Brandon is a good is one of mine, and he's currently doing something really interesting. 

[00:00:19] He joined an intense coding boot camp learning backend and front end development as a 30 plus years old.   Brendan. As had an interesting set of experiences that led him to this decision graduating with a degree in business, starting a handful of eCommerce stores, living a normal lifestyle, and now learning programming in this interview, we cover white programming is such a unique skill set to acquire ethics in marketing, the pros and cons of digital nomadism and the problem with school. 

[00:00:53] I have to say that by listening and editing to the first episode, I found a lot of ways to  speak with more clarity. I will do my best to improve on the next episodes. I hope you enjoy it. 

[00:01:04] Welcome to the first ever episode of the podcast. So I'm here with Brandon Olin. I met with Brandon a bit over three years ago in Colombia, Medellin, when we were both, living the digital nomad lifestyle first time for me , and we didn't really get to know each other much, actually, during our time in Colombia, we mostly get to know during the Nomad Cruise that started a friendship, and, the last three years we started also a mastermind with a weekly call to just keep up with progress and just stay in touch. So welcome, Brandon. 

[00:01:43] Brandon Olin: Yeah, thanks for having me. It's good to be here on the inaugural first episode, I feel quite honored. 

[00:01:48] Benjamin Spring: I hope so. When we reach the level of Joe Rogan in a few years    

[00:01:53] Brandon Olin: yeah, when you get to move to Texas to save like $13 million in tax breaks or something like that, did you hear about that? 

[00:01:59] Benjamin Spring: yeah, 

[00:01:59] Brandon Olin: yeah. Ridiculous. 

[00:02:02]Benjamin Spring: just two minutes. Can you just present yourself? So you're going to give some context to my following questions. 

[00:02:10] Brandon Olin: Sure. So, yeah, like Benji said, we met back about three years ago. That was a 2017, early 2017, which was also the start of the whole digital nomad lifestyle for me. I had been living in my hometown of Buffalo, New York, up until that point. And then I first left a travel in October, 2016. I had an eCommerce business, that I was running that was marginally profitable and money saved up from my deskjob that have worked up to that point, went down to Colombia. fell in love with the nomad lifestyle and met some people who did the online English teaching thing and got me hooked up with a job at the same company. So that, let me keep doing that for awhile. And then I spent, basically the past three, three and a half years doing the whole digital nomad lifestyle and trying to build up eCommerce businesses, teaching, traveling around, you know, Latin America, Europe, Southeast Asia. 

[00:03:03]And then more recently, I decided to make the transition into computer programming as a career, just because, Like all along, I should have known that was the thing I should have been doing. And, you know, like even growing up, my parents were like, cause I was like a very nerdy kid, but I was building gaming PCs by the time I was 14 and just really had a knack for computers. 

[00:03:21] Everybody was telling me like, Oh, you should do something with computers. And I was like, great, what is that? What should I do? I don't know, you're a nobody back then, what it was going to turn into now. So, you know, as, as a lot of people say, you should always follow, follow your passion and follow the thing that you're most interested in doing. 

[00:03:39] And, you know, took long enough, but that lesson finally stuck in. So now I've set up a longterm home in Denver, Colorado, working towards a career in programming and still running the eCommerce businesses and doing all of that. 

[00:03:52] Benjamin Spring: And it's interesting because when I reflected on it, the same thing when I was ten, I was always on my computer. But my parents was absolutely non-techie. So my dad was always the first to buy the best internet and the best computer. I think he probably had the means to do that, but never didn't understand anything. 

[00:04:11] So I was always like, really. Oh, I knew how to use the tech. I knew how to tweak things, but I never got really deep into learning to program my own game . Then at 15, I was doing also websites and so on. And then I wanted to start study that for some reasons, the class I wanted to join didn't open. Then I did something completely differently. And then 15 years later, you just go back to what you liked and what you enjoy and you spent times in your computer and with all these interesting people that you find on the internet. So it's pretty interesting. Yeah. 

[00:04:44] Brandon Olin: Yeah, it was funny because I actually did have one influence that could have, and I wish had fully pushed me in that direction. When I was in a high school, our school had this unique program that none of the other schools had, it was called the Cisco networking Academy. And we got to do in depth courses on computer networking. And, the teacher, Mr. Joy was this awesome dude. He honestly looked kind of like Santa, he had like a big belly, white hair, but like a long pony tail. He was kind of a hippie too. And he was this awesome dude who just told, like he just loved computers and technology. And he taught us about all of these things. The problem was that, Computer networking is boring as hell. It's just not a very interesting subject. But the interesting thing is that he painted a picture of what would eventually come to be in terms of he's like, look, if you go down this path, if you've got, you know, this certification at Cisco, like even this basic level of what you're going to be employable without even a college degree, if you get this higher level one, you can literally just be like, sitting on your boat, sipping cocktails with a laptop and a cell phone just solving people's problems for $200 an hour. 

[00:05:55] And I was like, come on. There's no way that's going to happen. Fast forward, 10, 15 years, digital nomad lifestyle picks up, and, turns out Mr. Joy was right. We just didn't believe him. 

[00:06:06]Benjamin Spring: To be honest,  in our case, he didn't push us to do anything with computers or to learn the program. So, so it was, you know, to come from yourself or maybe from a great teacher or something like that, but the school didn't push us in this direction at all. 

[00:06:19] Brandon Olin: Yeah. I think I have a bit of a gripe with, particularly the American public school system in general, which shouldn't be surprising as where the butt end of  a lot of jokes internationally. I'm sure. But, what issue that I always had, cause like I always did naturally fairly well in school. I never really had to try very hard. It just because. It didn't seem that difficult. And I always got shit for it. Cause it's like, look, you do really well. Like you should, you know, if you just try a little bit, you can get really good grades and this will, you know, be this great, wonderful thing. And for me it never seems important or obvious as the thing to do, just because it wasn't ever interesting because the practical application of what the knowledge would allow you to do was never really like explained or shown to you. It was just like, learn how to do these math equations. Why? So you can pass the test and get into a good college. Why? So you can get a degree and get a good job. Why? It's like, it was never about what you can do with the knowledge. It was always just do this to clear the hurdle so you can clear the next hurdle, so you can go the next turtle, but like, You know, kids aren't interested in that kids want to do cool shit. 

[00:07:28] So I feel like I'm connecting what the knowledge enables you to do with real world things, it's a thing that's missing in a lot of public schooling. I don't know if you had any similar experience in Switzerland. 

[00:07:42] Benjamin Spring: yeah, hundred percent, I mean it  sort of contextual to the teacher. The system is not very good. The teacher can do a lot. So if he or she has an idea or is more interested in the creative part of the journey, it can change everything, which obviously happens, 

[00:07:58] but yeah, it's the same for me to could be either in a writing class, which usually writing class was French. So it's the is literature and the same time writing, which are totally different. But then your grade is the average of the two. So you hate French because you don't want to read 17th century literature, but you might like writing.  And I really liked writing with one teacher at a specific time just because the context was different. 

[00:08:28] Brandon Olin: Yeah. Similarly, like I said, I have grudges against the system, like as a whole, but I did have a handful of teachers who really stood out in my mind just because they, they didn't let the system dictate what they could teach their students lecture. They would do whatever the system mandated that they had to do. 

[00:08:45] But they would go above and beyond to make the classes and the lessons even more interesting as much as they could. I had one teacher in particular, mr. Liss, my English teacher. I think there's like 10th or 11th grade. And, You know, English and literature and all that stuff always just came easily to me just because I enjoyed it. 

[00:09:05] Like I was a voracious reader, reading all kinds of nonfiction as a kid and I just enjoyed it. So I was always like the first one to answer questions and do the assignments and do really well on them. So at one point you signed to the class. I was 16 years old at the time he assigned the class a book to read and then he sort of pulls me on the side. He goes I want you to read this one. He hands me a copy of  Aldous huxley's "brave new world", which I've got to read a 16 in English class. I was like, Oh wow. Okay. And for me, that was really interesting. Cause it was that moment where like, I'm a person you respect, like sees promise in you and like dedicate time to help  you progress individually. It's like the wise mentor, coaching ,the young upstart kind of thing. and that was an awesome moment. And you know, that book was definitely very impactful on me at the time. So I don't think that  a bad system, has to be limiting on what a person is capable of doing within that system. 

[00:09:59] But I think that a lot of people let that dictate their path when it doesn't necessarily need to, you know what I mean? 

[00:10:07] Benjamin Spring: Yeah, totally. I agree.   I would like to rebound on , you just did a coding bootcamp. So, there's two things I want to explore.   I want to explore the why. Cause I know you told me that you have some, issue with the ethic of marketing in general. 

[00:10:22] That's something I want to explore. So can you just expand on that? And the second thing I want to explore is. What was the most surprising thing that you learned in this bootcamp, besides coding ,maybe the mindset shift of the way you see things, because coders usually are system thinkers, and  database thinkers and  it's pretty interesting to see how you can see problems. So first the ethical part of marketing. 

[00:10:47]Brandon Olin: the ethical part of marketing. That's a fun question. so. I want to be clear that I don't think that marketing is inherently an unethical activity. I just think that it's all really in a matter of how you use it. I mean, marketing is necessary for the best products in the world. As much as the worst products in the world, like, you know, Tesla, cars need marketing and solar city, solar panels need marketing and like every single product for good or for ill needs marketing. So it's not really a matter of the tool itself. It's a matter of how people use it. I think that the modern ecosystem or the modern economy that the internet has created has both. Democratized opportunity. So everybody has access to opportunity, but because everybody has access to it, you've got so many more players in the game. 

[00:11:38] So many more people competing that people are attracted by the the get rich quick, the Instagram ads. Oh, look at my Ferrari. I'll teach you how to be rich. Buy my course on e-commerce and how to sell stuff on Amazon. So you got a lot of people who are chasing low-level wealth creation, schemes. 

[00:11:59] And they're all competing in the exact same marketplaces. So whenever you have a large quantity of people competing in the same marketplace, people have to get more and more creative in the ways that they differentiate themselves. And one of the ways that this has moved forward, a great deal, I think, has to do with particularly like marketing sales funnels, copywriting, things like that. 

[00:12:23] And you'll hear a lot of terms bandied about in marketing, like you need to, show some kind of scarcity. So you need to say, Oh, we only have this many of this thing left in stock or the sale runs out in 24 hours and people will do this all the time. Even if it is completely not true. 

[00:12:39] You know, you're, you're creating a false sense of urgency for somebody to buy a product, or you can hear people talk about emotional triggers, how you can, you know, like dig at people's insecurities to get them to buy things. And to me that just really reeks of just like sleazy salesmanship. And it's not something that I agree with at all. 

[00:12:57]and part of the reason that marketing never. Really sat well with me, I think the biggest reason is just I wasn't ever really selling things. I genuinely believed in. you know, I was in e-commerce, so I was selling the same crap that everybody else was selling just with my label slapped on it instead of somebody else's label. 

[00:13:14] And then you've got to use marketing tactics to convince somebody, to buy your things that have somebody else's thing, or spend more money on your thing, even if it's the same as somebody else's thing. And that just doesn't feel good. Like some people are driven by enriching themselves and they're totally okay with whatever they have to do towards that end. 

[00:13:34] I'm just not,  I don't want to sound like I'm up here on my high horse, like talking about how other people are crappy in that way, but there are people who, say like whatever means to justify the end result of creating wealth for themselves. And that just never sat well with me. 

[00:13:50] Benjamin Spring: the really interesting thing is that 10 years ago everybody was selling courses on how to become a blogger and all the rich bloggers were just setting course on how to blog. And then five years ago Facebook ads. 

[00:14:01] And now maybe Snapchat ads. I have no fucking idea, but they all do the same. Basically. It's always like this pyramid scheme and the only one that makes banks at the top of the pyramid, selling the course on how to do the thing. And also  a business where you use credit card and you spend 10,000 bucks a day, but eleven comes out of it so you can keep going. 

[00:14:22] It just seems to be totally wrong. And it makes Facebook richer. And there's something wrong in there. 

[00:14:28] Brandon Olin: Yeah. Yeah. There's a term for what I think describes a lot of this stuff I've heard. I think Brett Weinstein use, they call rent- seeking behavior, , any activity that essentially extracts wealth from people without contributing any unique value. To society, which is you could make the argument that that's essentially what landlords do in a lot of way. 

[00:14:49] And obviously that's a very simplistic view of it. I think that there's more to it than that, but, that is what a lot of these people are doing. They're just taking. Things that people could get, you know, and a lot of times for free and just repackaging it, slapping a price tag on it, using crazy marketing tactics. And like you said, spending 10,000, but getting 11,000 back and that's how they make enough to get by. And it's like, yeah, if you feel okay doing that. Oh, good on ya. I just don't. 

[00:15:20] Benjamin Spring: Yeah.  there's a lack of craftsmanship on these online course online coaching world. There's just something lacking. And the issue is it's really easy to fall in the trap of wanting to do it because at some point I was almost ready to start a course on how to do Facebook ads for local business, because it just seems to be to say, yeah, don't do that. 

[00:15:40] Don't be, don't be one more doing these kind of things, but it's really easy because just seems you see the path to actually making money. That's the question about it. It's not easy, but you see the path.  

[00:15:50] Brandon Olin: Yeah, well, we're very strongly influenced by what we see other people doing to become successful. So it's not really surprising that that would pop up in your head. But, I think Naval Ravikant was the one who said, in regards to these people like pushing their courses on Instagram ads and all that stuff there's no, get rich quick schemes. 

[00:16:05] It's just somebody trying to get rich off of you essentially. at the point at which somebody can push this course out to thousands, tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands, millions of people, all of those people are gonna flood that market. 

[00:16:17] That market is going to become saturated. And then the competition is going to drown out any sort of profit to be had there. no, you see ads. That should be the red flag. Now's the time to avoid that thing. 

[00:16:26] Now's the time to find the new thing that all these people aren't on yet. back to the original thing about the marketing ethics and coding, so. What I realized is the one thing that I enjoyed most about my, but what I, the work I had to do in marketing was I liked building things like I like building landing pages, building sales funnels. 

[00:16:44] I really liked particularly building like email funnels. Cause you could visually see this like schema of how different actions would push people in different directions. And I just liked building systems, building pages, building things, and all the time I spent talking with our other. Friends I met on the road who are programmers. 

[00:17:04] Programmeers always seemed like the most interesting, fascinating thing. And actually on the nomad cruise, our one friend Giorgio ran a little coding workshop where it showed us how to do the basic HTML and CSS. And he's , you see a change the thing over here. Then you can see how the change appears on the page. 

[00:17:19] And I was Oh my God, this is so cool. And even after that, it took me two and a half, three years to let that lesson sink in and switch to coding. But yeah, just building things always was the most interesting thing to me. And I like it because it allows you to create something uniquely valuable, whereas that's much, much harder in e-commerce because to create a brand new physical products like you need a manufacturer is willing to create a specific mold and specific parts to construct the thing that you want, and you might need to invest tens or even like low level hundreds of thousands of dollars just for the initial run. And you are seeing difference, marketing and sales, methodologies popping up to support that you have seen a rise in crowdfunding in recent years. 

[00:18:03] And that's, people's way of sort of coming around that if you've got okay, here's the product, let's get the 3D renders made eight let's figure out, how much is it going to cost for the run? And then we can do a crowdfunding campaign and fund it before we ever invest the money ourselves in that first batch of product. 

[00:18:18] So there are ways around that, but it's just, it's cumbersome. It's expensive .And I really do think that digital products, code all of these things have the potential to solve. A lot of the modern day issues that we're facing right now. 

[00:18:33]not that there's no place for physical products, obviously, you know, big fan of everything Elon Musk does. And I think that a lot of these things can definitely improve things, but, particularly for somebody who's very big hurdle to their own thing. And doesn't have large cash reserves to invest in these things. bootstrapping something through code and digital products is definitely a much more feasible path for somebody like me to take. 

[00:18:56] Benjamin Spring: And, the coding side. were you afraid of coding before  just to get your feet wet in the coding world? 

[00:19:04] Brandon Olin: I actually wasn't and I know that a lot of people are, and I'm kind of unique that way, but I've just  always known that I kind of have like an engineer's brain, you know, my interest in computers when I was a kid,  I've always had the idea in my mind that like, If I do decide to do this and for awhile, it felt like a cop out to me. 

[00:19:26] I was like, no, I see all these Instagram influencer idiots, making it big with eCommerce. I can totally do it. So for me, the idea of like going into coding that will. the idea of  giving up on this thing, like, Oh, I wasn't good enough to do that. 

[00:19:39] So I guess I'm going to have to go to coding.  but in the back of my head, I always had the idea, like, if I do decide to do this, if I decided to code, it's not a question of whether or not I will be able to be good at it. I know I can be good at it, just going to take time. So I wasn't really scared of it in that way. 

[00:19:53] Benjamin Spring: And when did you realize you can build something from scratch.  how soon did you find that you could build something? 

[00:20:01]  Brandon Olin: I realized that I could do it was probably during the coding bootcamp. in the last three weeks we  paired up in teams of four. And we started building a couple of projects and we built, the second project, the more complete one that we built was essentially a gig platform, very similar to Fiverr and Upwork or something like that. 

[00:20:19]we did a lot of work in that short period of time as people who've  only been coding for about seven weeks at that point,  was a huge, huge confidence boost. Now, since then I've moved over more difficult cause and found that it's not quite that easy all the time. 

[00:20:32] I kind of always went into it with the mindset that is where this path would lead me.  Okay, I'm going to go into coding. I'm going to learn how to code, maybe get a job and get good at it. And that could lead me back to entrepreneurship. 

[00:20:45]So, one of the things that really cemented in my brain, the decision to move into coding was, June of 2019. I stopped in Europe. My way from the States over to Asia, I stopped in Sweden and visited our friend Jay, and I got to meet some of his friends who both very capable technologists, coders and then just hearing them talk about the possibilities with code and the things that they've built and. Where are their career or has gone as a result of it.  That was really the thing that cemented in my brain what having these things allows you to do. 

[00:21:21]it's like being a skilled craftsman, a woodworker or something like that. And you just have this raw set of skills and an unlimited number of tools at your disposal, thanks to the internet and just this blank canvas in terms of you can build whatever you want. 

[00:21:36] And the possibility that provides you with is very, very exciting and fascinating in a way that no other form of entrepreneurship that I've seen so far can really match.  

[00:21:50] Benjamin Spring: How long have you been into your path into entrepreneurship, even though it's a bit changing now, as you started coding? 

[00:21:56] Brandon Olin: it's been quite a while. I started my first eCommerce business. when I was 24, this would have been the fall of 2013.  I read the four hour work week. I was like 19 years old  I was like, Oh my God, this sounds amazing. It took my focus as well as my job. I've been buying a house and all that stuff. And then once I finished up college and buying a house, I settled down a little bit. I decided, okay, I'm gonna start the first business. 

[00:22:22] Benjamin Spring: How has been the journey so far?  it's interesting. A nonlinear path. Isn't it. 

[00:22:27]Brandon Olin: Yeah. Yeah. It's, it's very interesting. you know, I saw something the other day. I think something, somebody posts on Instagram where they talked about how on average, most entrepreneurs fail at like their first 17 endeavors before they find something that's actually successful.    I've run three separate eCommerce businesses. So far two of which we've since shut down, one of which is still a profitable, which is nice and that one's fairly automated. and then I've tried other endeavors sort of spread out throughout there. I was also  dipping my feet into that idea of course creation but I just never could stick with it because of my own missgivings.  about, the morality or actual value being added.  That's one thing I've realized is that  I don't feel like I can be okay with the work that I do every day I have to show up to work and put in a solid eight or however many hours working on something, I have to at least give a crap about it and think that it's something that will genuinely enhance and improve people's lives in a unique way. And if it's the same stuff that somebody else can do , that doesn't provide enough of a sense of meaning to really motivate me to move forward with doing that thing. so that's a little bit of a tangent there. So with, entrepreneurship so far, We have the one eCommerce business that's still profitable, which funnily enough was, the one that we started as a bit of a joke, it was just a funny little side business we could start. and now that's the one that's the most profitable, because it's something unique that people seem to enjoy and nobody else offers the same thing.  Oh, that's an interesting lesson about entrepreneurship to learn right there that we definitely didn't expect. 

[00:24:09] Benjamin Spring: Yeah, it's interesting. it's also saying that the more time you try something the more chance you have to having something  working out. 

[00:24:17] Brandon Olin: Yeah. I don't remember who said it, but someone said something along the lines of a fail early and fail often, as you're saying, the more shots you take, the more, the more risks you take, as long as they're not risks, that'll  cripple you with large amounts of debt later on. the more you learn, the faster you really iterate the faster you're able to build something that's actually profitable. 

[00:24:36]  Benjamin Spring: the great thing about digital, because it costs nothing, maybe 20 bucks for a domain name, but that's it 

[00:24:42]  Brandon Olin: exactly ,and, with software and tech ,a lot of coding these days are not even actually writing as much code. You're just using a lot of packages that other programmers have built and stitching them together into like some sort of Frankenstein's monster of  things that other people have built. 

[00:24:57] But ,that's kind of, of what coding is. Cause there's this principle in coding called the DRY principle, D R Y, which stands for don't repeat yourself and coders are inherently. As a profession, very lazy people. They don't like to do things more than once if they don't have to. So people build these packages that solve common problems that people have. 

[00:25:20] So. If you stitch together eight or ten different NPM packages, you can automate the basic building blocks of any app in a very short period of time. So it is a great time to get into coding if you're an entrepreneurially minded person, because you can iterate and pump out MVPs of projects very, very quickly, you don't have the same kind of long time runway that you might've had five, 10, 15 years ago. 

[00:25:51]Benjamin Spring: Interesting. ,  you just briefly mentioned reading the four hour workweek 10 years ago or something. And I've been thinking about him. It's like one of these books I feel almost ashamed that has been so influential in my life. 

[00:26:04] And I have the feeling that it's underrated I think Tim Ferris, he has a great podcast. He has a huge audience, but I think this book is having  big impact in our generation. What do you think about that? 

[00:26:17] Brandon Olin: Yeah. I definitely think it did. and I think that a lot of people. Kind of looked down upon it for a bunch of reasons. I mean, like for example, the marketing things we talked about earlier, the book is. Basically like a bit of a roadmap set of tools to get you to a certain point, or that can be used to get you towards a certain point and people can use those tools any way that they want. 

[00:26:43] And a lot of people use it to start sleazy businesses or businesses that don't add any value or to do things that aren't inherently useful all for the sake of achieving the lifestyle for themselves. So their focus is on the end goal of just getting that digital nomad lifestyle, getting that freedom, not really about building something of value or building something meaningful. 

[00:27:05] And I think that these people have given. Like a lot of nomads in that book, kind of a bad rap in some ways. and I'm sure the title of the book doesn't help because it's a very gimmicky title. I mean, Tim Ferris even said that in an interview, he's like, yeah, I know the title of the book. Isn't doing me any favors, but it tested most positively in test market. 

[00:27:26] So like that's what we went with. But yeah, I definitely think that's, you know, a lot of people say, Oh, the book's dated. Like you can't do that same stuff anymore. And it's like, yeah, you can't just run, you know, start an eCommerce business and run Google ads and just make like tens of thousands of dollars a month,  within a couple of months of working on it, the landscape has changed, but the core principles laid out in the book have not changed. 

[00:27:51] So I definitely think it is  a book that's been very formative for a large portion of people, obviously, you know, across generations, but the digital nomad sector in particular. And I definitely think that in some ways it is underrated or I would say unfairly maligned because of those two things that I laid out. 

[00:28:14] I think that a lot of people don't. Appreciate  the lessons that it has to impart  in a very small number of pages too. It's not a very long book. So yeah, I definitely think it's one worth reading, even if, somebody new to the game and, they want to go down this path of  location, independence, nomading, entrepreneurship, all that. 

[00:28:33] I definitely think that's one of the foundational books that any person should read. If they're going down that path. 

[00:28:39] Benjamin Spring: And I would say for me in retrospect, because 10 years ago, I had a different idea when I read it first time, but it's gives you a way out a career path that you never chose, you just upon, because  you need to do that. And then you go to the next step and in my case, you study economics and finance and all this kind of thing. 

[00:28:57] And you never like, but you still pass your exams. You keep going and you keep going.   And it's gave me a way out of a Alcatraz  if I can just rephrase something that Peter Thiel said  when he went out of, his  law firm   yeah, there's a different way. You can do something more creative, more meaningful. So... 

[00:29:17] Brandon Olin: yeah, I wish that either there was something more in the book about this, or maybe there is, and I just didn't see it, but I really wished that I had recognized earlier on that, Cause like many people, I felt the need to build something and build it quickly. And I didn't have the patience to say , okay, I'm going to work on improving my skill set for, you know, a year or two years, three years, five years. 

[00:29:44]I didn't have the patience for that. I was like, no, I gotta get this going sooner. I want to get traveling faster. I want to, you know, now, now, now, now, and in reality, I didn't even end up traveling for about another. Three years after I started my  businesses . whereas if I had taken the lesson to heart,  not that you, e-commerce can't be profitable, but it wasn't, a very imaginative way of going about making myself, uniquely valuable to had people pay me to do things at a high rate for them, you know, if they had been able to zoom out get the bird's eye view in the lay of the landscape back then, and at 24 years old, but just like, okay, I've clearly got a knack for this stuff. Even though I went to school for business, I could still learn how to code now and just gone down that path. Then it's one of those things, you know, obviously hindsight's 2020, but it's one of those things where just think like, man, where would I be now if I'd made that decision six years ago, instead of just now shortly before turning 31. 

[00:30:43] Benjamin Spring: yeah it's almost needs a sequel or add-on one where he just talks about all the skills and all the different way you can go about  it could be either freelancing learning to code or different kind of business model that you can go and you can just chose. 

[00:30:59] Brandon Olin: I think some of the other stuff he puts out kind of fills that gap though. Like if you read  tools of Titans or tribe of mentors or listen to his podcast, you will hear about all the different ways in which people have become very, very wealthy and very, very successful. So it's not explicitly laid out, but if you  know , that's what you're looking for. And then you can find it in the other stuff that he puts out or nowadays in the other stuff that pretty much anybody puts out because there's just so much content out there across all these different areas. 

[00:31:32] Benjamin Spring: switching gears, wanted to briefly talk about the digital nomad lifestyle. you've been living it for over three years. If I'm not mistaken now, and, I had  a dilemna.  I think if I were 20 again, I would definitely do it. First thing after uni, try to get a freelance gig of 1000 bucks a month so I can just build something. But I also had my issue on the way that nomads in general, we're not really appreciative of the culture off the people where  they lived. And it's been a struggle for me when I was living a broad and I don't know what you think about it. 

[00:32:15] Brandon Olin: Yeah. there's definitely, again, a bunch of interesting questions to dive into there. I definitely had issues with it. you see a lot of people who travel around and they're essentially just pursuing the lifestyle that they think will make them happy.  the rich celebrity lifestyle. Oh, I get to live in a Villa, I can pay someone to do my. Laundry and cook all my meals for me. You know, I get to live a luxurious lifestyle, which feels good for a little while. and I think that a lot of people just kind of get caught in that trap because they think that that's what will make them happy in life. And I'm sure that on some very base level it does, but I really don't think it solves the deeper, the deeper issue that most people have, which is doing something that they find personally meaningful. 

[00:33:04] And  I dunno, I used to be much more cynical about this, where I just thought like, Oh, these people are just idiots. They're just, you know, they're just chasing low level things and they don't, have any appreciation for all this stuff, but I generally feel that human beings are all the same in more ways than they're different. 

[00:33:24] And that. We do all want to find that deeper sense of meaning. We do all like, we all seek the same things. You know, we're all descended from what is it? We're like 98% chimpanzees. We all descend from the same Hunter gatherers, hundreds of thousands of years ago. We all desire the same things in life. You know, a sense of purpose, meaningful community around us, feeling of security in our current and future wellbeing. 

[00:33:48] And. People who are seeking this ritzy lifestyle , I even lived it for a little bit and it does feel good for a bit, but because of hedonic adaptation, once that becomes your new normal, then you just start seeking, okay, how can I live a better lifestyle, a better lifestyle, a better lifestyle. 

[00:34:06] You're just chasing those lifestyle upgrades that don't actually make you feel much happier. And I think that the people who. Are nomadic and that is their main driving force. I just think they're on the wrong path. like I said before, I would cynically look at them and be like, ah, like these scumbags, whatever, but now I just kinda feel bad for them. 

[00:34:26] Cause ,I can see where you're heading that and where you're going. And I just think you're going down the wrong path. and as, as you kind of implied not respecting the culture of the locals and the places that they go to, they're also damaging things along the way that I don't really think they're aware of, which is, I mean, I mean, it's this, it's a crying shame, to be honest. 

[00:34:46]Benjamin Spring:   it is due to gentrification, all these,   cities like , it could be Medellin, it could be Lisbon and it could Barcelona. we all seen that. 

[00:34:55] Brandon Olin: Yeah, but to also provide a counterpoints of that, a friend of mine said that she spoke with some of the locals in Medellin about that very issue. And that the locals there looked at her, like she was crazy because they're like, no, all of these wealthy foreigners coming in has injected so much. Cash and so much opportunity into the economy that it has been a net positive for the life of all the locals living there, because it's just raised the standard of living for everyone. 

[00:35:22] Not just people who work in the tourism industry. There's just more money. I mean, anytime you take an economy and you have money. From an external source going into that economy that is a net positive for that economy. So to be fair, it's not an entirely bad thing for the locals in any given place. Their standard of living may raise as well, but it's a fine line. 

[00:35:45] And I don't think anybody should be treading down, right. That path haphazardly, because, you know, you don't really know all of the effects of your actions, so , you don't just want to. I dunno. I mean, there's, there's positives of that. And then like in, in Medellin, in particular, there's a lot of tourists who go down there because, you know, Colombia is notorious for being a place where you can get easy access to illegal substances. 

[00:36:10] So it's like, Be careful and cognizant of the ways that you can impact the place you're visiting. And always remember. I wouldn't say always remember that you are a guest in that place. A lot of people go there trying to live like a King. It's like, no, these aren't your servants. These are people. You are a guest in your country. You know, treat this place with at least some level of respect. I would hope 

[00:36:32] Benjamin Spring: Yeah. Agreed. we'll . Keep going with a handful of questions. And then I think we wrap up and,  the whole theme I want to explore in general is, how to craft a career, even though it's , doesn't have to follow a.   planned path. It's a bit more , serendipituous, but, what has been  if you think right now, the best decision you made in your career? 

[00:36:56]Brandon Olin: interestingly enough. even this is funny because this kind of goes directly against the thing that I said earlier, but. I definitely think that the decision to quit the nine to five and go travel around was by far the best decision in my career. Because even if. you know, professionally, financially,  I'm not like super rich or anything like that, but everything that I've learned along the way, all the connections that I've made, all the, really just the things that I've learned. 

[00:37:24]. It's been so massively beneficial and helpful, and I can see how these would be useful in a variety of different business contexts. So even though . Like I said, I have a bit of an engineer's brain and I feel like coding is one of the things that I can best do. I also spent. three, three and a half. 

[00:37:43] Actually it was pretty much three years on the dot three years, teaching English to students in China. And that might not on its own seemed like a super valuable experience to have, but you would be amazed how much having to converse with children, especially children who don't have a great grasp on language. 

[00:38:01] Teaches you soft skills about how to communicate with human beings in general.  you don't use a what's it, you don't use $5 words. When, when 50 cent words will suffice you don't overcomplicate things. You explain things in a way that is most easily understood by everybody. Similarly, when I hosted my own podcast the deskbound podcast around health and wellness. I was interviewing experts in different areas and my goal was always to do, well, one of my favorite subreddits does Eli5, explain it like I'm five. So I kind of crafted this ability to take complex subjects and get to break them down into much more simplistic, easy to understand for everybody terminology. 

[00:38:41] So through those things, I've developed the soft skills of being able to communicate very clearly and concisely and very complex matters. And now as somebody who's going into programming, I have the potential to do that in programming. It is very, very useful because.  it's often very difficult for a team of programmers to communicate with, for example, their team of sales people or with their clients. 

[00:39:04] It's just like programmers are a different breed a lot of the time. So even though it wasn't my intention and I didn't plan out this path beforehand. The experience that I've built, you know, the experience that is referred to between teaching and podcasting, the knowledge of  marketing and designing systems and entrepreneurship and all that. 

[00:39:24] And now the knowledge of coding that I'm stacking on top of all that, that's a very powerful combination when you put all those things together, that can make me very valuable to any organization that I find myself in, or that I can get myself into.  I believe Scott Adams is the one who put this out there. 

[00:39:40] He said, you know, don't try to be the best at any one given thing, but if you can be in the top 1% at three different, somewhat related things, then that can make you a very uniquely valuable person, to do any given sort of project or role in a business. And that is something that I've sort of accidentally stumbled on. 

[00:40:01] So I think that.  You know, this is interesting because this goes back to something from when I was a kid, which I didn't realize would be useful, but in hindsight it seems like it is, I'm very much a, Well, I think we all are in some ways, but I'm scatterbrained  kind of shiny object syndrome. I'm always interested in a lot of different things. 

[00:40:21] And my attention gets pulled in a lot of different directions. And growing up, I played like a bunch of different sports. And for awhile, I was like, I want to learn how to draw. I want to learn how to write. I want to learn how to do this, that, and the other thing. And my parents and other people always gave me crap, like, Oh, you know, just pick one thing and focus on it. 

[00:40:37] And that seemed to make sense since at the time. But now looking back, I realized that when you learn a little bit about a lot of different things, you sort of start to see the broader patterns and the broader connections that link different things together. And that is a uniquely valuable skill in and of itself. 

[00:40:55] So. I would say that to get back to the original question, because I've gone down a really weird rabbit hole. definitely it was the decision travel, honestly. I wish, what I had done earlier in life and what I think a lot of people should do earlier in life is after high school, before  university, do a gap year, spend time traveling around, spend time interacting with people from the broadest set of different career paths that you could possibly imagine because. 

[00:41:23] You know, school doesn't really show you all the possibilities out there.  it trains you for what they think are the ways that you can be successful. But we really don't know until we get out there because the, the economy,  the workforce, all these things are changing so rapidly. That it's very difficult for any one person to keep track of all the changes that are happening. 

[00:41:48] So I would say any sort of change a person can do that gets them to interact with as many different career paths, as many different walks of life, as many different mindsets than the one that you grew up in is going to give you the most different, interesting perspectives and allow you to spot the pathway that might be best for you and your given unique set of skills and abilities. 

[00:42:13] Benjamin Spring: Yeah . Like that  , when you went down the rabbit hole of the talent stack. I think it's extremely interesting for the kind of people. like us, we are more like  generalists than specialists. Probably not by design. It's just happened. I think it's extremely important not to impose label on top of what we do. 

[00:42:35] You are not a coder, you're not a developer.  okay. You know how to code, but you know how to market as well. And you know how to sell and you understand the health industry , but you're not a developer.  it's a skill. It's not a label. I think it is  important to think like that. And it can be really helpful  as a framework. 

[00:42:51] Brandon Olin: Yeah, there was, this quote, if I remember, right, I think it's from, the notebooks of Lazarus long  which is a very unique name, or he said, specialization is for insects. And that's something that I've heard Naval Ravikant share a couple of times as well. 

[00:43:07] You know, human beings, I believe all have the potential to do many different things. Like every human being has the capacity to be a great athlete and a great artist and, you know, a competent business person and an engineer and all of these different things. Not, not that every person can be all of those things. 

[00:43:25] But the fact that human beings are multifaceted and we all have potential across more than one given alley, as long as we figure out the way to learn those different things in the way that is most right for us. like one thing I've discovered in recent years is that I, I am very much a visual learner. 

[00:43:41] I need to see things happening. I can't just read them in text.  I will often like in coding when I'm learning new things, I often need to watch YouTube videos as opposed to just read books or blog posts. That's a unique thing about the way that I learn. that's makes things easier to pick up for me, for example, a sport that I picked up in the past couple of years is volleyball, which I'm now obsessed with. 

[00:44:03] And when I wanted to learn how to jump serve, I use this tool where you can punch your YouTube video in and like, the timeframe to like a few seconds long. And it was loop that section of the video over and over again. So I can just watch this teacher jumps serve over and over and over and over and over again, and just drill it into my brain repeatedly and doing things like this I found allows me to shorten my learning curve with various things. And I think  that's one of the larger issues with the education system is that I don't think that , some people are smart and some people are dumb. I just think that. You're trying to jam a bunch of different shaped pegs into one shaped hole, and you need to have different learning modalities for people who learn differently. 

[00:44:51] That's just the nature of human beings. We're not all the same, same  I think that that applies to human beings in general, you know, specialization is for insects, human beings have the capacity to do these vastly different things. And I think that doing different things can help you be better at the main thing you do as well. 

[00:45:10] Benjamin Spring: but it's interesting that you say that at the moment. If I'm not mistaking that you are reading the rational optimist by Matt Ridley,  that just finished a few days ago and his whole thesis is about specialization is the reason that homosapiens could   actually trade with the extra value that  created. 

[00:45:27]Brandon Olin: Fair. 

[00:45:28] Benjamin Spring: though. I agree with you. 

[00:45:30]Brandon Olin: Yeah. Well, it's because  there's different parts to that. A human being can specialize in the thing they do in terms of their professional output. The thing that they create that adds value to society yeah. That earns them an income, but that human being can also have a bunch of different interests or other things that they're learning in the meantime. 

[00:45:49] And that's kind of necessary in the modern. Professional ecosystem, because again, it's changing so quickly that the thing you do now could be irrelevant in five years. So you do need to be constantly learning and adapting what your specialization is. but to get back to the earlier parts, one interesting thing I've found is that I think I shared this anecdote with you guys, but, you and you and Jay, our other friend that we talk regularly with, oftentimes the most interesting insights and ideas about how to do a thing in your specialization comes when you're doing something completely unrelated to your specialization. So for example, Einstein's wife, after he passed away, shared that Einstein often had some of his biggest breakthroughs about science when he was playing the violin. 

[00:46:38]  And I think that this is a useful insight to take away that, you know, people are so obsessed with productivity.   The term that I love that, our other friends and Sanna shared with me Entreporn, when you've got like your Instagram feed filled up with all of these influencers and these entrepreneurs, and just talking about how they hustle 14 hours a day, and they're just working themselves dry, but. It's not realistic. People like to put this out there because it gives them a certain level of status and it makes them appear like, Oh, there are these super human creatures who can do all this much. And you know, it, I dunno if it ties in as much in Europe, but in the U S there's this big cultural marker of like, you know, hard work, perseverance, self sacrifice, these things pay off and you just need to keep at it. 

[00:47:28] And it definitely. Triggers that sort of, cultural feeling of, you know, I should be working harder. I should be doing more, but.   More hours worked more time put in is not necessarily the best way to get the highest output that you are capable of producing. And I think that that's something that all of us, they're kind of realizing more and more like you, me and Jay, Working myself to the bone and then having like a mental breakdown is not a sustainable way to approach my work life balance and it's not even really the best way for me to go about putting out my best work in the world because my brain is so like frazzled all the time, I'm operating at like 50% output at best. 

[00:48:11] So, I think that having a broad. Range of things that you do can both allow you to have greater insights and innovations into your specialization, but also allow you to do it in a way that's much more sustainable and good for your both short and longterm mental health. To be honest. 

[00:48:31] Benjamin Spring: Yeah, I think  was good for the first show. Thanks a lot for joining and, you can come back whenever you want. 

[00:48:39]Brandon Olin: Yeah, thanks for having me on man.   

[00:48:41] Benjamin Spring: all right. And, where can, listener find more about you? 

[00:48:45]  Brandon Olin: Ooh, I should be better at having these things ready. Twitter,  atbrandonolin, B R A N D O N O L I N a. My website is the same brandonolin.com. And those are pretty much the only things that I use, which, you know, I don't really use Twitter very much just because it's a complete. Mess of people freaking out about COVID and all of this stuff these days. 

[00:49:10] So I try to avoid it, but those are the two places that you can keep up with me. 

[00:49:14] Benjamin Spring: very understandable. All right. So thanks a lot. Have a good coding day and, enjoy your weekend. 

[00:49:20]Okay. Bye. Bye. 

[00:49:21]  Thank you for listening to the sideway, you can find the show notes at http://benjaminspring.com/podcast. If you enjoyed this episode, please hit subscribe on your favorite podcast app and consider leaving it a review. See you next time. Bye bye. 


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