The Magic Bullet to Living the Dream and The Future of the Tropical MBA

Some housekeeping: for those of you interested in the third paid internship through the Tropical MBA, I’m sorry to say it will likely delayed until Q2. The good news is that the reason for the delay is very exciting to me.

The original purpose of the Tropical MBA was to be a magic bullet– a final push out the door to the “jet set” nomadic lifestyle. It’s not all the time glamourous or baller baller (we aren’t paying much) and I’m not posting videos of all the days I’ve spent holed up in offices or crappy hotel rooms trying to get some business done. But to those who love travel and adventure, and those who believe they can truly carve out a living for themselves from their laptops while they travel the world, it’s a pretty sweet opportunity.

Since I won’t be able to offer that magic bullet this month, I’ll make a go at a conceptual bullet.

This blog started over 1 year ago. I made a post called “travel the world for free.” I needed an intern to help me run my growing business. Since then I’ve officially offered 2 paid internships through this blog, wrote about a 10,000 day, booked an 80K month, helped land a 200K deal, and hired a bunch of great people in the Philippines and the USA. I also did a whole lot of podcasting.

Way back in December 2009 Sean from slam dunked the application to semester I. He was willing to sacrifice cash to have a great experience.

Since being brought on board, he’s traveled through Thailand, the Philippines, Bali, Hawaii, and god knows where else. He’s topped it off by a return to blogger Mecca Portland, Oregon while still having the time to swing by Boston, NYC, and the home office of @AnythingIan in good old San Diego.

I was thrilled to watch him launch his first successful information product.

He’s done all that while managing to help grow our monthly turnover by over 100% in 2010. He’s so good at what he does, we even hired the guy. How could we not? Currently, Sean serves as webmaster to some of our most important e-commerce outlets, and I’m really looking forward to working with him in the new year.

Things with Sean went so well we decided to kick off on a second paid internship. David from joined us here in the Philippines and we immediately got started on having entirely too much fun. Since that time David has jump started a number of new internet initiatives, made his first $100 bucks online, and has extended his stay with us here in the Philippines until the end of the year fully paid.

Since he’s been here not only has he made a huge contribution to our online businesses, but he’s managed to sneak off to Palawan to do some world class wreck diving, take an island-hopping motorbike tour, and learned how to surf in La Union. David is currently working on his Divemaster certification on the island of Mindoro, Philippines and we’ve been spending a lot of quality time together working on our businesses.

Building a business and a lifestyle that that is an interesting experience for our employees wasn’t only a lot of fun, but it was required for us to compete. I don’t know how much it costs to pay Sean and David to sit in a cubicle from 9 to 5 but I do know that I can’t afford it.

I just arrived back in the Philippines after a trip to Bali and the gold old USA (good to be back!) and as I was putting together the offer letter to TMBA III with David’s help, we got to talking about his future plans.

David had earned our trust through months of excellent work and a high level of professionalism. It was clear to Sean (sponsor of semester II) and myself that David was going to be able to continue living his dream.

That said, the deal at Badladz was done. High season starts in December, and like any exceptional worker, David has already proactively trained his replacement.

David had tons of options, but none of them were 100% clear. He didn’t have one site just pumping out 2K a month in adsense earning. He needed to hustle together a living. In other words, David is a entrepreneur now :)

David had a wide range of potential projects and partnerships on the table. Sean and I know a bunch of people who need hired guns like him and we trusted him enough to recommend him. Second, David was already making a little money with his affiliate sites. It’ll probably be enough to cover his travel expenses shortly. Third, he could easily have cut a deal with either Sean or myself. We can always find room for good people.

A lot of people don’t make the transition to this lifestyle until they’ve got a certain amount of monthly profit all buttoned up. I understand that’s a necessity for some people, but there’s another kind of security that can be even more potent.

Relationships. (That’s your magic bullet).

And not just any relationship will do.

Relationships that can change your life are built with skin in the game (or they are built with customers).


For most of us, the transition to a nomadic lifestyle is a long one full of compromises and half measures. A contract gig here, a remote work arrangement there, an adsense site or two, even a loan or two. Our only security and all of our opportunity comes from one source: our relationships. And if you don’t have the money to buy yourself in to these relationships, they are going to take a lot of time, expertise, and dedication to develop.

I am only able to live this lifestyle because of the relationships I have with my two business partners. They are exceptional business people with incredible resources at their disposal. People that have such incredible resources can grant you a location independent lifestyle with no sweat off their backs. The tricky part is to supply them with value in return.

The magic bullet is NOT: people liking you, people knowing who you are on the internet, tweeting the correct way, having a commenting strategy, having a bunch of readers. Those things are all great, but they aren’t enough.

David and Sean both have skin in the game. They’ve sacrificed to help build our company. They have showed up day after day.

That means they are in. That means its gonna work. That means they are gonna get hired. They are gonna get investments. They are gonna get help. They are gonna get recommended. They are gonna get the experience. They are gonna make it happen.

They already are.

So instead of launching a third semester of the Tropical MBA, my business partner and I have decided to hire David. I’m a bit sad it’ll put off the next paid internship until Q2, but David and I are just getting started and that guy is way too talented to let go.

And anyway, I want to invest more in our relationship. I want to see what we can accomplish together.

Above all I trust that David is going to get it done.

I know there are a lot of other lifestyle business owners based in places like south east Asia thinking about doing something similar to the Tropical MBA. I hope that you will and let me know about it. This has been an incredibly rewarding experience for me and I’d recommend it to anyone.

Why not put some skin in the game? My prediction it will work out great.

Cheers from the Philippines,


I tweet a lot: @TropicalMBA

NOTE: I’ll be in Thailand January 6th. The ONLY reason I’m going to Thailand is to meet YOU. David from TMBAII is coming with me. Should be fun :)

PS, a special thanks to Sean from Badladz, one of my new best friends and a truly remarkable business man and friend. We’ve had a ton of fun this past year traveling all around the Philippines and meeting many interesting people. We’ll almost certainly be doing another project together in the very near future, we just aren’t sure what that is yet. Also, big ups to @AnythingIan my business partner and best friend, and the guy who has graciously allowed me to run around the world while we run this little business.