Success: one day at a time

How is success measured for you?

Earning the money you need for the lifestyle you want? Having and keeping a happy family? Lots of travel and experiences? Climbing the career ladder? A big house full of all your stuff? Respect in the eyes of your peers? Having a positive impact on the world around you? Simply enjoying life? Reaching a comfortable retirement? Success in sport?

I haven’t yet worked out exactly what success looks like for me.  To make it even more confusing it seems to have changed at different times in my life, or even on different days of the last week! Looking back at this summer (Northern summer that is) one day does leap out in my memory as successful.

Not that it was the only day, very far from it, I mean I had an actual summer, with sun and everything (sorry, probably I wouldn’t find that funny if I didn’t live in Scotland).  Just that this day seems to typify how I currently measure success.

Continue reading Success: one day at a time

Stop wasting time!

One of my current challenges is being efficient, not just in how I work but in what I do.

I see lots of advice and comments on this, there seems to be an endless supply of schemes and programs that are aimed at helping productivity.  The problem is that its too easy to get caught up in the system and lose track of the goal.

So I’ve come to a conclusion: there are two things I will concentrate on, everything else is window dressing.  When I am better at these I achieve more and am happier about it.

This isn’t rocket science, when I focus on one thing I get it done.  When I’m trying to do lots of things (or think about lots of things) I get nothing done.

So why am I spending so much time in the ‘blue’ region?

 Achieve, not just spend time
There is too much to do, absolutely no way that I can fit in everything I want to.  So obviously the challenge is deciding what to do.  From a personal perspective this is boiling down to choosing those things that I feel are most important and/or enjoyable.

From a business point of view I am not yet doing well on this.  A huge amount of my time seems to be used up on the stuff (mostly technical) that I could be delegating, outsourcing or otherwise getting done differently.  Of course, there are lots of reasons; “I can do it better”, “it takes to long to explain”, “can’t afford it”, “its what I’m good at” and many more.

That’s not good enough.

My resolution from now is to change things so that all my time is on the most important parts of the business. That will be challenging personally, practically and financially; but it is the only way that I or the business can grow.

Internet Dongles: can’t live without them!

OK, so maybe that’s a bit strong: you can live without them, but you certainly can’t travel and work reliably without them.

It is so important to have a backup internet connection, in many parts of the world wifi and even power can disappear without notice.  Indeed, in many less developed parts of the world mobile connections are much more widespread and reliable than anything else; in Africa for example many places haven’t bothered with cabling (even for power) but everyone has a mobile phone.

Even in ‘developed’ countries you’ll find yourself grateful for the magic little thing at some point.

Here are some of my recent experiences:


I found the wifi connections in while travelling and working in Vietnam really good (much easier to find that in Europe, Japan or Australia – in fact, as easy as their visa on arrival to Vietnam). But it was still important to have a 3G backup connection; as it was less reliable in some of the places I stayed.

Mobifone and Viettel are two of the good service providers in Vietnam.  I bought a Viettel dongle and sim card with a load of credit for about $30 US in Siagon.  I recommend finding one of the many specialist phone places (in fact it heard it is simple to purchase at the airport, but I wasn’t that organised).  Make sure you get them to activate it for you and then immediately test yourself.

Top up credit can be purchased almost everywhere; but I didn’t need to recharge until after two months.

The 3G speeds where pretty good across the country on the whole; plenty enough for most things including some Skyping.


The dongle was my main connection in Uganda.  There are a couple of places in Kamapla with wifi or cables to connect the laptop and most places have small internet cafes with connected PCs you can use.  However, outside that it was only the dongle.  Also they have significant power issues with the electricity going out for many hours at a time.
I had good success with an Airtel dongle though.

Just the sim card?

So far I have used a locally sourced dongle, but it should be possible and may be better to just buy a local sim card and put that in your dongle, especially if you are moving between countries a lot.
Hurray for dongles (plus its a cool word) 🙂

Remote Working in Vietnam on a Budget

I’ve now spent 2.5 months travelling and working remotely in Vietnam and am recording some of my experiences and lessons learned.

Overall my experience has been amazingly positive and I’ve proved the case for being location independent a lot more!   

View from my “office” in Nah Trang


This is SE Asia and so my expectations were pretty low, however I have been very pleasantly surprised at how easy it is to find good Internet connection in Vietnam.  In fact I have found that many more of the hotels, restaurants and coffee shops have free WIFI than in Europe or Japan (can’t comment on N America)!


Almost every hotel has wifi of varying degrees of quality. First thing I do when arriving somewhere new is find a cheap hotel (for me it’s somewhere between US$6 and US$60). Make sure you scout out the rooms before committing. I always take my HTC phone with me and check the upload and download speed in the hotel room. It’s no good doing this from reception as it often varies floor to floor and room to room. If the connection’s not good enough in one room I ask where the wifi router is situated and hopefully there’ll be a room closer, usually meaning a better connection.

I use the app for this; of course this will not tell you anything about reliability or contention issues during busy times, but it is generally an excellent indicator.

My favourite (and the cheapest)
place to stay in Mui Ne.

Surprisingly enough, the hotel with the worst internet connection I stayed in was the $60 one. Although it had a really nice garden for working in. This was in Mui Ne and there was a problem with the whole town’s internet connection while we were there. The $6 hotel was across the road and, bizarrely, that side of the street was still working and had some of the fastest speeds tested in Vietnam.

Working in a hotel room is much more relaxed than working at an office. Even if the room has a desk, I tend to get a sore back from the poor quality chairs so I don’t use them. You’ll usually find me kicking back on the bed with my laptop and pillow (one for me to lounge against, one under the laptop for heat). So my only real requirements in a hotel are a bed, good air conditioning (if it is hot and humid), and wifi for, preferably, under $15. You can usually get that and more in Vietnam.

Coffee Shops & Restaurants

Coffee Shop working

Vietnam has a great café culture. Most cafes have wifi and noboby minds if you buy one coffee and spend the next four or five hours working on your laptop in their establishment. This has worked well in some of the places I’ve been where the temperatures haven’t been too high but restaurant/café air conditioning is not really the norm in Vietnam so I’m a bit picky about the places outside the hotel where I can comfortably work for extended periods. If there is a lot of shade, some fans or a cool coastal breeze, then I can usually sit happily for hours.

Connection Outages

Power cuts and internet outages can’t be anticipated so I take a Viettel mobile internet dongle with me; more on that, the locations I have found best and whatever else I can think of in future posts…

Something Amazing?

So I came to a conclusion the other day while sitting in my “office” in Sa Pa (northern Vietnam) looking out at the cloud shrouded mountains.

I am doing something amazing.

Not just a thing, or a good thing or even a great thing; but something that is truly outstanding.

There are two significant parts to this for me.  The first is that doing something so cool is obviously significant, but the second is a subtler and probably even more personally significant. I am actually aware that it is amazing and am confident enough to talk about it.  The latter is such a big deal because it represents a huge break from my usual Northern Irish (and Scottish for that matter) self-effacing, “I’m sorry you stood on my foot” lack of self confidence.

That is a big step.

Don’t get me wrong, nothing is perfect and this thing I am doing is not unique (oops, slipping back into devaluing it, maybe I’ve only taken a little step after all).

So what am I talking about?  Well I am glad you asked:  I can work from pretty much anywhere on the planet; and I am actually doing it!

I can have a location independent lifestyle, be a digital nomad or whatever the coolest term is now. My skills, business and life have reached the point that I have been talking about for an extremely long time.  That I find amazing!

Earlier this year I was going to my “office” in Uganda in the living area of my new friend Harry’s house in Kampala (check out – its truly inspiring). And I’ve just spent 2 months in Vietnam moving “office” every week or so as I slowly made my way from Saigon (HCMC) to these beautiful (if a bit damp) mountains in the north.

I’m properly working as well, putting in longer hours in Vietnam than I have recently in Scotland, plus I have become rejuvenated about both my current business and future opportunities.  All while having a great time exploring this gorgeous, fascinating, challenging, fun country with food to die for!

Not bad, even if I do (finally) say so myself.

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