Travel as a Lifestyle from a Digital Nomad Family

Travel as a Lifestyle from a Digital Nomad Family

I gave up.

Or better stated I quit.

And this isn’t my first time quitting!

On one hand we are told never to give up, that persistence pays off. Shoot, Angry Birds was Rovio’s 52nd attempt at making a game.

Yet on the other hand we’re told to say no to things that distract from the priority, from the goal.

The really insidious things are those goals/priorities that we don’t know we’re signed up for.

I quit those things. Er, I quit two of those things.

  • Keeping up with the Jones’ and
  • The American Dream

Background

We have 4 kids, and we homeschool them. This effectively makes our family a location independent family.

I run a digital marketing strategy agency. I’ve been running that agency for 4 years since I quit the best job I ever had working with the great people at ddm. But the whole time I was building that agency I was working from my basement in Newaygo county. Quite literally from the woods of Michigan.

I was struggling with some of the decisions we had made, and frankly as an entrepreneur who loves to start things I was unable to keep up with some of the commitments we were making. For example, we committed to being a one car family and with 4 kids we drove a minivan.

Driving a minivan as a parent is no big deal. But using the minivan to meet with clients? I mean we were running a quarter million in annual revenue for four years why was I driving around in a minivan?

But I struggled with that, why do I need to keep up with the Jones’? Why do I need to feel bad when others show up to meetings in BMWs?

The dream for me is not to own a certain car. These things perish. And I know that if I work harder while my kids are young I could afford that BMW… but what am I sacrificing?

And then there was the farm, the weeds, the fencing needed to get a couple horses, the hay, the cows, the fruit trees we planted that didn’t get enough attention. We had a sweet little hobby farm but as a starter and not a finisher I was unable to keep up with it all.

And it was sucking the lifeblood out of me.

And doing damage to our family.

Selling it all

So we did what anyone with 4 kids would do.

We sold our house and 90% of our belongings.

We become homeless.

Yeah okay maybe not anyone with 4 kids.

But seriously, I espoused that stuff is not important, yet somehow I was stuck in the middle ground of having stuff and needing to maintain the stuff we had while not wanting more and better things.

If you say your stuff doesn’t own you… I challenge you to sell it all. Could you part with 90% of your stuff and life continue on as normal? The obvious answer is yes, but yet we don’t do it.

Why?

Because stuff brings us some strange level of comfort.

We left: Begin the Digital Nomad, Travel as a Lifestyle

After selling everything we had (and before some of it sold!) we left. We started out vagabonding in the Philippines and various other Southeast Asian countries.

For now we’re committed to 9 months of travel as a lifestyle. Of being homeless by choice.

From the woods in Michigan to the Beach in Bali.

We’re 1/3 of the way through our initial commitment. having visited and lived in 8 cities in 4 countries we’ve been on quite the journey so far.

and now I’m inviting you to join us.

Digital Nomad Famil: Kortmans at Petronas Towers in Kuala Lumpur

Kortmans at Petronas Towers in Kuala Lumpur

Join Us!

Here’s the simple ways to join us. Feel free to pick one or all of them :)

 

 

Laymen’s Guide to the Kolbe Score

I was looking for a definitive explainer or a guide to the Kolbe Score and I couldn’t find one, mostly because consultants make a lot of money explaining how the kolbe works and they are old skool in that they don’t want to give away the information that they consult with.

And mind you I’m very un-trained in the Kolbe score reading land, but this is a layman’s explainer for how to use a Kolbe score (specifically in teams).

First off, a Kolbe score shows your instincts, your natural desires of how to act. This isn’t Myers Briggs’ “are you an Extrovert or Introvert?” It’s more of a how well do you work with teammates to get things done?

It’s also a holistic view of people, we all need to work on areas that are not our strengths. Instead of an excuse for laziness (well my Kolbe score says I’m no good at doing it that way) see it as more of a prediction of where problem areas lie between two individuals.

Kolbe scores on 4 modes, Fact Finder, Follow Thru, Quickstart and Implementor.

Fact Finder

This is your propensity to seek out information before acting, or before making a decision. Are you more likely to read a recipe, watch a video, and witness a demonstration before cooking a new dish? Or are you more likely to read the ingredients, see a picture and go from there?

Follow Thru

Are you a systems creator, or a person who bypasses the system to get the task done? Those who score high here are able to document processes and develop repeatable systems. Those who score low here adapt to find ways to accomplish the tasks through multitasking or other shortcuts

Quickstart

This describes your propensity to do stuff without knowing the outcome. Typically a high quickstart person will be heard saying stuff like “I don’t know, let’s just try something” They are an experimenter. Those who score low here will want to stick with tried and true plans. Middle of the road will check things out before trying them.

Implementor

We’re all Implementors in a non-physical sense. But this Kolbe measurement measures how we work with physical space, do we work with our hands to create something physical? Those who score low here can see things, they can understand how physical objects work together. Those who score high here can create physical solutions to problems.
Now that you know what all four of the modes are what are these predicting?

First off there’s a 9 point scale in each, the lowest you can score is 1, the highest is 9. In one area, say for example Quickstart, a 1, 2 or 3 will push back when they are in a situation where they need to do something that hasn’t been proven to work. a 4, 5 or 6 will be middle of the road, they can fluctuate and operate well with a proven plan or without by trying some new stuff. A 7, 8 or 9 will feel like the lifeblood is being sucked out of them if they need to repeat a proven process without any experimentation.

So the key is knowing which of the 4 you are in the high, middle or low sections and seeing how that blends with other teammates.

Real life example, I’m currently a 5-4-9-2 Which means I’m a middle of the road Fact Finder and Follow Thru, I enjoy getting more information, but can take action without all of the information. I also can create systems, but I have a greater tendency to develop a shortcut, or multitask to get things done.

I’m a high quickstart, almost off the charts :) which means I like trying new ways of doing things just because. For example my commute home, I’ve tried over a dozen different ways, and will frequently change up for no apparent reason, just because I wanted to test a theory.

I’m a very low Implementor, which means I have difficulty working with my hands to create solutions. I would be a terrible mechanic. In the scene from Apollo 13 where they dump out the parts and say build a solution — I’d be the guy at the white board drawing a solution (I can picture it) versus actually taping together parts to make a solution.

Great so now you know more about me, my strengths and weaknesses, but so what? Well, lets look at where conflict might occur.

Kolbe Score on Conflict

Fact Finder and Follow Thru, I’m middle of the road and so I work will with folks who are either high or low in both, the only potential issue is with someone who is a 9 in Follow Thru (I’m a 4) I might struggle with always having to do the system, the repeatable task.

Quick Start, I will cause someone with a low quickstart (1, 2 or 3) anxiety. As I’m not sticking to the plan, to the proven track record, I’m always out there trying new things, doing things different just because. Conversely I’ll get frustrated with a low quick start for not trying new things, for not experimenting and just doing something because its “the way its always been done”.

Implementor, I will actually block a high implementor from working with their hands because I’m (naturally) so opposed to doing stuff with my hands, I may end up wanting to draw it out, or wanting them to explain it to me without using objects or something like that. Whereas the high implementor wants to build it, put it together physically.

Like I said in the beginning the Kolbe is not an excuse for laziness, just more of a helpful tool in predicting and explaining inter-personal relational difficulties or successes.

Oh and yes kolbe scores change over time, I used to be a 7-6-5-3 and now I’m a 5-4-9-2 which means I’ve moved into a more experimental phase in my life, wanting to operate out of trying new things more than finding all of the information (high fact finder). I’ve also lowered my system building tendency and my tendency to work with my hands in the physical space.

So where do you see yourself? High, Medium or Low in the four modes?

Saying No

Saying No

It happened again.

The great opportunity fell into my lap.

And I turned it down.

Letsatsi, the White lion. (Son of Temba)

White Lion Source

What is this great opportunity?

A job offer.

In 2013, 5 years after the economy took a nose dive, 3 years after I quit my job and 3 years after starting an SEO company. I turned down my 3rd job offer in as many years. When the unemployment situation in the US isn’t good at all, how can I be so prideful as to turn down a job, never mind three in three years?

Truth be told none of these were finalized, formalized offers, but all three were (and are) clients who loved what I brought to the team. They made overtures and asked if I was interested, after saying no initially in a cursory manner each one got serious and followed up to see. Essentially saying: “Are you sure?” And each time I’ve told them No.

The offers have been increasing in size, the first one’s base salary matched my previous salary with bonuses included. The second was higher than that and this third involved moving the decimal place,  a number I never thought I’d be offered.

Yet I still said no.

Money isn’t everything, and no it’s not just the rich who say that. To give a little context, since some reading this may think I’m rich. Or they might say, “whatever, that Kortman guy has a successful business, 4 kids, house, and takes trips when he needs/wants to.”  But in reality I’m making payments, paying off debt and we’re a one car family who cannot afford 99% of the trips we want to take.

It’s not just the rich who say “Money isn’t everything” It’s me too. A solidly middle class guy from a middle class family who married into a middle class family. No complaints here, just couching the statement that money isn’t everything.

So what in the world could have kept me from 3 different jobs all of which would have increased my income and economic status significantly at the time?

My Values.

I value working less. Shocker I know, a guy running two businesses who wanted to get into the funded startup world… wants to work less? Yup. I want to be really purposeful with my time and develop products that bring in revenue (read: income) when I’m not there.

I value working from home. Even when times at home are tough, working from home solves so many other issues. And has a ton of upside. Today my presence was expected by my 7 year old daughter at her mock performance in our house of “whatever came to her mind.” It was a great show! and while only 15 minutes long (could seem like an eternity) if I were working elsewhere I would have totally missed it. These are not moments you can manufacture, or turn on or off in a kid. Despite not having a great example, I’ve learned enough in the three years I’ve been working from home, that it’d have to be an offer of a million dollar salary to take me away from that.

I value living overseas. I’m currently in one of the more expensive countries to live in, and my heart is elsewhere, supporting people who are giving their lives to other people. I’m not sorry that my heart isn’t in the american dream. My heart is in living on less, traveling all the time (as a family, together) and sucking the marrow out of life. I don’t want two cars, a boat, an RV, a house, a cottage, and a mortgage on everything. And I don’t value “traveling more” I want living elsewhere as a core of our lives. I want my kids to have tasted french cheese in france, or to walk with Giraffes and wildebeasts in South Africa, or to get kicked by a kangaroo in Australia, or even to narrowly avoid a tsunami in Thailand (all of these are part of my story). I’d love for my kids to fall in love with an orphanage, a ministry, a mission and give everything they have passionately to live to see others’ lives improved through that organization. I do not value “settling down and raising a family” I value raising a family wherever God places us.

And this is why I wrote this post, to help me remember my values, to help me remember that saying no to something (job offers) is saying yes to these things.

Say No, Say yes to Values

Connex enables these values. I’m able to work fewer hours (currently less than 40) from home, and travel when I want to. What kind of money would cause me to give up these things?

And if you want to help me continue to say know consider donating to a client of mine by Joining Best Friends

Father’s Day Sucks

I’m usually not to negative on this here blog, but today I needed to get something off my chest. To be real with the world. To make a confession:

I don’t know how to be a good father.

For that reason, and many others today sucks. Celebrating fatherhood sucks.

As most problems we adults experience within ourselves: this problem has roots in my childhood.

As a child I was physically and emotionally abused by my father. So starting right there you see why I have baggage about this day. Why the days and weeks leading up to today it’s weighed on my mind about what it means to be a father, and about what my father did to me.

However that’s not the end of the story. As if abuse wasn’t enough! When I was 21 years old my parents separated. A divorce was imminent. But the kids were moved out, so a divorce would be a okay. One day my mom called me to come over because my dad had something to tell me. Upon arrival, I found it odd that my parents’ pastor, my moms closest sister and my dads closest sister were there. But I forged ahead thinking this was when he’d tell me they were divorcing, which at this point in my life I felt would be a blessing. I’d been out of the house for 3 years and the abuse had stopped. But visiting home was still no fun.

What he told me changed everything. He told me (in very different words because he had a difficult time communicating) that he was not my biological father, he couldn’t have kids (he was sterile) and so my sister and I were half siblings and our bio dads were sperm bank donors.

We were kids of very early AID, aka Artificial Insemination from a Donor. This was uncommon at the time, the first AID baby was born in 1953. The first sperm bank opened in 1970, and the first baby born from IVF was born the same year as my sister, 1978.

However, no one knew. My mom hid how she became pregnant both times. It’s actually a very simple thing to hide when you think about it. A whole lot easier to hide than adoption. They hid the truth because my dad had self-esteem issues as well as culturally it was not accepted at the time.

So it’s Fathers Day today.

Should I send a “Happy Father’s Day” card to a sperm bank? Or how about a donor?

So, would you try and research down your biological records? Yup, I’ve tried. The Doctor is no longer in practice, and my parents destroyed all records they had. Who knows what sperm bank I came from.

But the story doesn’t end there, after my parents divorced my “dad” ended up on the streets. He had a bit of a mental breakdown, and his manic depression got the better of him. He died of a heart attack a few years later while in an office applying for federal assistance of some sort.

And just over a year ago my Mom got married to a man I knew and respected my whole life. So now in my 30’s I’m attempting to call him dad, to send him father’s day greetings and well there’s just a whole lot of baggage in my life that he doesn’t deserve but it’s extremely hard for me to overcome.

Let’s throw in the fact that I’ve been married 10 years, which brings a father-in-law into the picture. He’s a good man, but not the right man to fill the hole left by not having my father around for my life.

This year is different than past Father’s Days. This year I’m in therapy specifically focused on overcoming childhood abuse, and addressing it and finally healing from it. Which is part of why I’m writing this. This is part of my journey through Father’s Day.

So in short this day I need to celebrate four fathers,

  • My bio-dad whom I’ve never met, and don’t know anything about but he’s given me half of everything I am today.
  • John Kortman (it hurts to call him dad) who abused me and gave me most of my baggage I carry with me, he lied to me/everyone.
  • My father-in-law who tries, but is far from being able to be my father. (Most people know similar feelings about their “in-laws”)
  • My Mom’s new husband, whom I now try to call dad. It’s not his fault, he’s a great guy, the role of ‘dad’ in my life is filled with emotional landmines.

Being a Dad

But what about me? I too am a Father. I have 4 wonderful kids who other than out first injury/ER visit in 7 years (it was just this past week) have been extremely healthy, really obedient, and they make me laugh until it hurts.

Yet I’m terrified. I am causing them baggage. Do I abuse them? No. Am I more harsh on them then I want to be? Yes. Do I want to set them up on a solid footing that I never had? Yes, do I feel like I’m doing that? No. What’s there in me to celebrate as a father? What can I claim that I’ve done right?

I’ve got so much negativity and poor training around being a father that I know every interaction with my kids is a potential for extreme failure. And that terrifies me.

And then there’s the family name, due to some unique situations there are very few male Kortman cousins to carry on the name, at a Kortman reunion there are very few actual Kortmans… which means that my kids will start a new Kortman line, since they are not biologically Kortmans at all. Yet they will forever carry that name. (of our 4 kids, 3 are boys and probably will carry the Kortman name until their death).

So when my kids give me their homemade cards today, when they celebrate me as a dad, what does that mean? I’ve celebrated one man as my dad for the first 21 years of my life, now I celebrate four men as my dad… and celebrate is a messed up term when I use it like that. So what are my kids celebrating today?

We all have baggage, and we’re all giving our kids baggage, this side of heaven it seems there are no baggage-free people. My story is unique, but not more special than yours. This is just why Father’s day sucks for me.

Jumping off of the Page

I’m the co-founder of ThingShare, a peer to peer rental system where anyone can participate in the sharing economy by listing your things and then renting them out to strangers. It’s a form of Collaborative Consumption currently focused on the video gaming industry.

Since ThingShare is a new business which needs scale to succeed we’ve gone the route of pursuing funding for our idea. Part of that journey might take us to an accelerator. We’ve applied to a bunch and are still applying to more accelerators. TechStars is the biggest accelerator we’ve applied to and the one that we’d benefit the most from.

In preparation for applying to TechStars I did my research, and figured out that while some funds/accelerators give priority to the business model/idea, TechStars puts a large emphasis on the team. Essentially they believe in raising/supporting great entrepreneurs no matter what the current idea/business is that they’re working on.

We’ve applied to both Boston and now NYC TechStars. But I’ve learned something in the 4 weeks in-between each application. The lesson I learned came from the movie 21.

Lessons learned from “21”

In the [based on true facts] movie the main character Ben had denied himself the pleasures of this world to seek after one goal, getting into Harvard Medical, the only thing in Ben’s way is finances. He has all the perfect scores, has everything lined up, and even is accepted into Harvard Med, and now he’s competing in a full ride scholarship. The professor explains to him that Ben’s life and in turn Ben himself is boring. In Ben’s final essay he needs to “Jump off the page” and the professor needs to be dazzled.

Dazzling TechStars

Like Ben needed to explain to the professor why he was impressive, I needed to explain to TechStars how I and my teammate are incredible  It’s like filling out a form on a dating website and needing to sound attractive, rich, etc. You shouldn’t lie. But you need to sexy up the stories a bit.

So what do I have that is impressive? What would make an indivitual going through hundreds or thousands of applications see our application and say, “Wow I want to meet these guys!” or “Holy cow, Bob did you read this application?” In short, How do I Jump off the page, or how do I dazzle the TechStars team?

The Basics

On the surface these details don’t make me jump off the page, but they should.

  • I’m from the midwest
    • I’m outside the Valley Echo, and I have the midwestern work ethic.
  • I live in the woods, 40 miles away from the nearest city and that city isn’t very large either.
    • While city life provides connections, life in the country is significantly more healthy – and I raise as much of my own food as possible
  • I went to a small unheard of college, got a degree in youth ministry
    • All the successes I’ve had in IT/Business have come from bootstrapping and being self taught.
  • I have a wife and four kids
    • While some assume that makes me tied down and less fundable, having a family makes me connected with our target audience
  • I’ve worked for various small and medium businesses that TechStars has never heard of, and do not directly apply to ThingShare
    • I know how to run small teams well and to work hard with nothing given to me.
  • I’m 32, that’s 4 years older than Mark Zuckerberg
  • We convinced a billionaire to invest $25,000 in ThingShare
    • While that seems low, everyone has to start somewhere, and a $25k convertible note is a form of validation.

But I’m not bitter, I’m just trying to show you how on the surface I don’t dazzle, I’m not the Stanford educated former Google employee who is connected to every VC in the valley, instead I’m  an average hard working midwesterner dad/husband who is pitbull-like in my pursuit of an idea that I get behind.

But let me try it again, what follows are the parts of my story that do jump off the page. And are all true.

Jumping off of the Page

In this list I am not trying to brag or promote myself, but I put it here to let you be the judge. The ultimate question is at the end of the the list.

  • I traveled around the world when I was 13, without my parents or family.
  • I hand wrote html in vi on a Sun UNIX box in 1994 (aka started “coding” at age 14)
  • An insurance company gave me $5,000 for a car that wouldn’t run.
  • My wife and I were deported from Kazakhstan, and we returned a week later.
  • As an english-only speaker I taught algebra to a woman who only spoke korean.
  • I walked away from an incredible job to pursue the Startup world two years ago.
  • I’ve sung in a funeral processional for a South African AIDS victim, in South Africa.
  • I built a training application… in Microsoft Access, prior to Visual Basic.
  • I turned a 2 week temporary job into a 9 month long engagement which I then left.
  • My wife and I delivered our son at home. Alone. Unassisted. Unplanned.
  • I built a Facebook page fan base of 60k in 2008.
  • I’ve built a digital marketing agency that has billed a quarter million. Annually. Every Year.
  • I chose to parent another man’s child cause he wasn’t willing to do it.

So, did I dazzle you? Did I Jump off of the Page?