Around a year ago, Niall Doherty quit his cushy 9 to 5 job and set off to travel round the world without flying.
He was not exactly sure how he’s going to make enough money to support him on his new journey but, nonetheless, he took the plunge and dove in.
Today, his thought-provoking blog is broadly read and attracts regular readers from every part of the plant. He makes money online, doing what he loves, while exploring the world, fulltime.
I first met Niall a few years ago in las Vegas at a personal development workshop. The passion and energy that came out of his voice grabbed my attention almost immediately. We became fast friends and he has continued to inspire me ever since.
Niall kindly agreed to share his story and insights here. I highly recommend reading this if you feel that your time has come to take the plunge and start following your dreams.
1. Tell us a bit about yourself. What was the biggest dream that you went after?
I’m 29 years old, from Ireland. I run a blog called Disrupting the Rabblement that’s all about thinking for yourself, living your dreams, and pissing off zombies.
The big dream I’m going after is the freedom to follow my passions full-time. A manifestation of that is a trip around the world without flying that I embarked on last September. I expect it will take four years to complete. I’m supporting myself mostly via freelance web design, working from my laptop from wherever I happen to be.
2. How did you get started & What ultimately led you to the decision to make a lifestyle change?
I was working a 9-to-5 web design job in New Orleans, which actually was the realization of another dream of mine. I had wanted to live and work in the US for years, mostly because I was obsessed with NBA basketball, and in particular the New Orleans Hornets, my favorite team. In 2007 I finally found an employer who would sponsor my visa long-term, and so I made the move. Before too long I had media access to all the games and had some of my sports writing featured on ESPN.com. I was all up in that basketball dream of mine
However, I had been gradually getting more interested in personal development, and had started writing about that as well. I found that to be much more fulfilling than writing about ten guys chasing a ball around a wooden floor, and I realized I could help a lot of people in a more meaningful way if I pushed it further.
At the same time, I was starting to see the downside of having a 9-to-5 job. I longed to travel but my day job didn’t afford me many opportunities to do so. One day it just became very obvious to me that I needed to leave my old dream behind and leap towards something bigger and better. Once I had that realization, there was no turning back.
3. Once you knew what your dream was how long did it take you to actualize it and what was your first step?
I still don’t think I’m there quite yet, but I’m confident that I’m headed in the right direction. I started on my current path back in May of 2010, six months before I quit my day job. So I’m coming up on two years since that initial decision. Just recently have I started to cover my expenses with my freelance web design, but I’m still spending more hours in front of the computer than I’d ultimately like. Once U get down to between 30 and 40 hours per week, I’ll be pretty content.
4. What would be a typical day for you? How do you maintain your work life balance?
A typical day, when I’m not on the move, usually involves 4 to 8 hours of work. I never really take a day off, and I’m fine with that. I enjoy the work I do and the vast majority of the time I’m working with really cool people, many of whom I consider friends.
Also, work for me is a broad term. I might be designing a website, doing some coding, answering emails, responding to comments, crafting a blog post, chatting on Skype, masterminding, doing the social media thing, editing a video, or any number of other things. Being self-employed, I’m never really off the clock, but then it doesn’t feel like the grind of my old 9-to-5 work either. I get to choose what I work on and when. If I really don’t feel like working on a Wednesday afternoon, I don’t have to.
I would like to make some more time though for getting out and about and exploring some of these great places I find myself in as I travel.
5. What does your lifestyle look like today? Describe how you afford to live your current lifestyle?
I’ve just gotten to the point where I’m earning more than I spend each month. For about a year before that, I was living partially off the €10k of savings I’d built up before quitting 9-to-5.
I don’t spend a lot of money, only about €1k per month. I don’t get much enjoyment from buying stuff, so most of my money goes towards food, shelter, travel, investing in my business, and whatever cool experiences I want to have. I actually detail everything I earn and spend in monthly finance reports that I post on my blog, so other folks can see how I’m making the transition.
So far, I’ve been mostly staying with friends and at hostels when traveling. I like to rent apartments when I know I’ll be staying in one spot for a few months. I go to bars quite regularly to hang out and meet people, but I don’t drink alcohol so that never costs much.
6. How do you manage your time? What are your top recommendations when it comes to managing your time efficiently?
It’s all about priorities. Know what your biggest goals are and question whether each task helps you move closer to those goals or not. I often have to be pretty ruthless and let projects slide, or tell people I can’t help them out. There just isn’t enough time to do everything I want to do and still have a life away from my laptop.
I have a few more tips for working effectively here.
7. What was the biggest challenge you have faced on your journey?
I think the biggest challenge was accepting that everything wasn’t going to fall into place as fast as I wanted it to. I had seen other folks quit their jobs and become successful online entrepreneurs before the season changed. I assumed I’d be able to do the same thing, but of course those overnight success stories get heard precisely because they’re exceptional.
8. What were your initial struggles along the journey? When was your turning point?
My turning point was when I gave up looking for a shortcut. I’d been trying to avoid doing freelance web design work for six months, because it wasn’t passive income. I wanted passive income. I still believe it’s possible to generate that, but it would have been smarter for me to generate regular old active income first, make sure I could rely on that, and then start experimenting with other things.
9. What were some of the main tipping points or “A-ha!” moments? How did they come about?
One a-ha moment came courtesy of Danielle LaPorte at the World Domination Summit, when she said, “So many people starting out in self-employment have the misguided assumption that they should only be doing work that they love.”
Another came from one of Ramit Sethi’s podcasts, when he talked about how you need to figure out active income before concerning yourself with passive income.
10. What is the best lesson you’ve learnt on your journey?
That everything will be okay. As long as you keep working and experimenting, you can’t really fail.
11. What is happiness to you?
Happiness to me is when I hear that something I wrote or shared made a significant positive difference in someone else’s life. Happiness to me is also when I don’t let my own fears and insecurities stop me from doing what I really want to do. Both of those things make me feel really alive.
12. Were there any pivotal mistakes that taught you a lesson?
One of the big lessons I learned last year was regarding empathy. Two posts I wrote on the blog really upset some friends of mine, and I didn’t foresee their reactions at all. I later realized I’d been projecting my own beliefs and values onto them. I’d never really stopped and considered how it might be from their point of view.
13. What gave you the courage to go after your biggest dream?
I think it’s more perspective than courage. I just realized that the pain of never trying would be greater than the pain of doing it and falling flat. I also took inspiration from other folks I found online doing similar things, people like Everett Bogue and Colin Wright. I figured they had nothing I didn’t have or couldn’t learn.
Oh, and I also had the experience of having already lived a big dream of mine. Since I’d done it once before, I was confident that I could do it again.
14. If you were to do it all over again what, if anything, would you do differently?
I definitely would have given up on passive income earlier, or perhaps never even started it at all. If I had started doing freelance web design work right out of the gate, I’d be a lot smarter as regards business by now, and that combined with a more favorable financial position (since I would have started covering my expenses much earlier) would mean that I’d now have a much better chance of figuring out such things as passive income. As it stands, I’m probably about six months away from having another crack at that sort of thing.
15. How did you cultivate your confidence and how important is it to have confidence in what you do?
It’s like a muscle. The more you push yourself out there, the stronger it becomes. I didn’t have much confidence when I was younger and avoided taking risks. At 22 years old I found myself working a dead-end job and realized I need to make some drastic changes or stay stuck in a fear-filled life. So I wen to work in the USA for a year. Going over there on my own pushed me way out of my comfort zone, and I was forced to sink or swim. I started to develop real confidence and come out of my shell. Ever since then, I’ve just been gradually pushing myself further and further, and my confidence has grown with every step.
As for the importance of confidence… it can be huge. It’s so much easier to handle a situation when you’re feeling confident. That said, I feel too many people see confidence as this thing you magically develop which then enables you to do the things you really want in life. But that’s not how it works. Usually the confidence only comes after you do something. So you have to make yourself take action even when you’re terrified. Do that enough times and you’ll develop real confidence.
16. How can people diminish their fears and biases to enable them to live their dreams?
The more you face your fears, the better you learn to handle them. So practice is one thing. Another is to surround yourself with courageous people. Environment is powerful. If you can’t find many courageous people in your area, find them online or in books.
Lastly, know your why. Why do you want to live this dream? What does it mean to you? What’s at stake? Always keep your end goal in mind. When fear pops up, you should be able to remind yourself easily why it’s worth facing and overcoming.
17. What is your message to someone who’s about to embark on his dream?
It’ll probably be harder than you think, and it will probably take longer than you expect. But it will also probably be more rewarding than you can imagine. Also, at the risk of sounding very cliche: don’t focus so much on the destination that you neglect to savor the journey.
18. Have you found any shortcuts to success?
Humility, which I still don’t consider myself to have in spades. If you can be very honest with yourself, acknowledge your own shortcomings, ask smart people for help and do what they advise, you’re likely to get there faster.
19. How do you seek to inspire others?
I try to live my life without letting fear get in my way, and then I write about my experiences. My readers seem to get a kick out of that. I’m also big on questioning things. I hope I can convince a few people to think more for themselves and not simply accept the status quo.
20. What does “living your dreams” mean to you?
It means doing whatever you’d do if you had all the time and money in the world, and you didn’t care what other people think of you.
21. Do you recommend any books, products or websites that helped you along the way?
Steve Pavlina has had a big positive influence on me, probably more than anyone else. and Tim Ferriss are also excellent. A couple of books I read a decade or so ago that really got me started on my personal development journey were Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway by Susan Jeffers, and The The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey.
I don’t think there’s any substitute though for getting out there and facing your own fears, and experimenting regularly. For most people, the problem isn’t a lack of information, but a lack of action.
22. What people or media inspire your inner entrepreneur and why?
I like Chris Guillebeau’s approach to marketing. He doesn’t want everybody to buy his products because he understands that not everybody needs them. As such, he’s always very clear about who stands to benefit from what he’s created and why. I like how Tim Ferriss measures and optimizes pretty much everything, not just in business. I like how Raam Dev defines his enough, and vows to donate everything he earns beyond that to charity.
23. What resources or tools did you find most helpful when you were getting
Nothing in particular comes to mind. There wasn’t an online course or a particular piece of software that made a huge difference for me.
24. What are your top values that and how they influence your journey?
I believe personal values can and should change over time, as we come to know more about the world and ourselves. But for right now, freedom and truth are my two primary values. Pretty much everything I’m doing — self-employment, world travel, asking hard questions — is in line with those value, or at least helping me get to a place where I’m living more in line with them.
25. What’s next for you?
I’d like to get to a point with my business where I feel like it’s taking care of me, rather than the other way around. I feel that will give me more freedom to enjoy my travels and help people in ways I’m currently unable to. So I’ll be working towards that ideal for the foreseeable future, while living in India and Southeast Asia.
26. Where do you see yourself in five years?
I have no idea. Three years ago I wanted nothing more out of life than to watch and write about basketball, have a secure 9-to-5 job, get drunk every weekend, and hook up with random American girls. If you had asked me then where I thought I’d be today, my prediction would have been way off.
So I try to refrain from projecting too far into the future. I’ll just keep trying to follow my passions, learn and grow as much as I can, and accept wherever that path leads.
27. One last question that personally interests me, why do you use videos on your blog? Do you find them effective?
I started recording videos along with every article as a way to bridge the gap between my writing and speaking voices. Some readers who knew me offline said they couldn’t recognize me in my writing, and that was unsettling. I didn’t want to be one guy on the Internet and another guy away from it.
Readers have told me they feel they know me better since I started recording the videos. I’m no longer some faceless blogger. I’m right there in full color with every post, walking my talk. When I attended the World Domination Summit last June, several people I’d never met commented that they felt like the knew me already because of my videos. Another video blogger I spoke with reported hearing the same from his audience. So putting yourself out there on video apparently helps foster a deeper connection. You can’t really fake it on video, and people appreciate that.