Tom Libelt is a digital nomad. He lives between Thailand, Poland and the US. He's lived in many different countries and the path he's taken has not been conventional. Born in Communist Poland, Tom moved to the US aged 11 and by his mid-teens, he already had experience selling everything from marijuana to music. He had a successful departure into making music and had his fifteen minutes of fame before going back into business, the coffee business and then after a life of exploring, Tom started to focus on the business of digital marketing and the business of balancing healthy routines with reluctant adventuring.
Thank you to Tom for a thoroughly enjoyable conversation. As you've probably noticed, our title for Tom is 'The Reluctant Adventurer'.
For Tom, adventure is a reaction to boredom, not the primary motivation.
It seems clear that Tom's parents and his wealth of experiences as a child played a role in shaping him. I loved hearing about the VCR and blueberry hustles. I loved the way he dealt so nonchalantly with the move from Poland to the US, gunshots in his hallway, rarely seeing his parents and customer service punch-ups at school. I get it, it was simply the way things were.
For me, the inspiring bit is when he starts to get dissatisfied with his trajectory when he starts to make his own path. I wish I'd been smart enough to hack the school software system and pass my exams in two months rather than the usual four years - it would have saved me and my teachers a lot of pain!
I see Tom's unwillingness to go with the flow as taking personal responsibility for his own life. Tom's realisation that he was trying to live other peoples stories and not his own seems to be such an important one. There are so many of us who simply go with the flow and end up being a part of someone else's else story, always feeling something's not quite right.
It's interesting to hear about Tom's unwillingness to be a part of the crowd, to be unique or as he describes 'finding the third door'. I'm in no doubt it's what's delivered entrepreneurial success and I think the way he compares himself today with himself yesterday is infinitely better than comparing yourself to someone else.
As Oscar Wilde says "Be yourself, everyone else is taken."
Tom's life now seems quite different from his life a few years ago. It sounds like he's starting to reap the dividends of all that investment in learning, in failure, in different jobs, in meeting different people from different cultures and different industries. It sounds like he's taken the best of what he learned and experienced and transformed it into a series of healthy habits and routines that, with discipline, deliver the consistent results he's looking for.
In our terms, his early years were spent voraciously exploring the unknown, albeit reluctantly! Now, he seems to have found more of a balance between the known and the unknown.
I can see Tom will always be curious to some extent or another but it's so interesting to hear him describe the way he stops himself from getting distracted. For people like Tom who feel comfortable in the unknown, this is a big challenge. New ideas can often feel so much more interesting than maintenance.
It all seems to come together in his bus metaphor. Serial entrepreneurs get on a bus and stay on for a few stops before switching to the bus where people look richer and happier. This process continues when you're a hustler, you never stay on any bus for very long, you never stick at anything, you never go deep into anything.
Tom's trick has been to notice the dissatisfaction, explore alternative paths, pick the one that works for him and repeat until he feels that twinge of dissatisfaction again.
As Tom and Jocko Willink say "Routines free you."
To some people, it might sound like Tom's wrestling with, on one hand, the value of routines versus the value of adventure but it isn't like that.
Routines and adventure work together as interdependent pairs like inhaling and exhaling. There's no point in mastering inhaling without giving equal attention to exhaling. The way we think about these things is balance.
With balance in mind, I hope Tom works out how to feel a contentment from what he's already achieved and balance it with the desire to move forward.
I'm sure his small group of family and friends will help him along the way.
Thanks again Tom for all the insights.
Ray & Neil