I guess I owe the blog readers an apology for kind of going dark for a while…sorry about that. I’ve had several people ask where I’m at, what I’m doing, and what my future plans are so I figured I should give a broad update.
I returned to Seattle from Southeast Asia shortly before Christmas. I won’t lie – it was difficult for me to leave Bangkok. I really felt at home there, but I knew I needed to get back here for a bit. I went back to Montana to see my family for Christmas, which was a great time as always. I’m forever thankful that I have a family that has so much fun when we’re all together, regardless of how much time passes in between gatherings. I returned to Seattle after Christmas, and plan to be here for the next couple of months (more on future plans below).
Why I Went and What I Learned in Asia
I had four goals when I went to Southeast Asia this past trip:
- Relax, vacation and see some new places that I hadn’t been to previously
- Get my mind “divorced” from Microsoft and technology and really start to explore what other areas I’m passionate about, and what other potential careers I might want to try
- Meet and network with as many expats living over there as I could, and get their input/feedback on what it’s like to live and work in Asia
- Test whether being over there for 2.5 months was “too long”, and whether I’d miss Seattle, friends, etc.
Somewhat to my surprise, I more than achieved all of those goals. I had tried goal #2 several times in the past when I was on sabbatical and/or other time off, but as long as I had that Microsoft employment safety net, I could never really get my brain to think very far outside of Microsoft/technology. While I didn’t come up with any concrete brainstorms for a new career, I do think I really expanded my thinking and dug deeper into areas that have been passions of mine.
I met more expats than I thought I would throughout my trip, and was amazed at how supportive they are and how quickly you can build a support network of other expats. Even in just those few months, and my in-and-out stays in Bangkok, I have several people there now that I can call to go for drinks, dinner, etc., and even got invited to a couple of their xmas parties. I also clearly answered my question as to whether I would want to live there long-term, and the answer is a resounding “absolutely!”. While I missed my friends here, making acquaintances/friends there so quickly helped, as does the ubiquity of texting, emailing, etc. with friends here.
I think I really just started the process of exploring other potential business/work for me while I was there. I have a lot more thinking and exercises to do to really flesh that out. I very well may end up pursuing a role at Amazon, Facebook, Google or one of the many local startups as so many other ex-Microsofties have done. Or potentially I may pursue a similar role at a technology company in Bangkok. But before I go down that path, I want to really explore other areas – particularly non-technology-related areas – before I settle back into a geek/technology role. I can’t tell you how much fun it’s been to set aside company names and salary etc., and just think about what kinds of things I’m interested and passionate about. I’ve already learned a lot more about myself than I ever expected to. As a very smart and close friend of mine told me recently, “You probably only get one shot at a total reset in your life; you should take as much time as you need to make sure you take full advantage of it.”
What’s Next for Gary?
So what am I doing now? My plan is to spend the next 6 to 8 weeks here in Seattle doing more thinking, research, networking and self-assessing to think more deeply about job/career options, as well as options and logistics for moving over to Thailand. I’m tentatively planning to go back to Bangkok in late-February or early March for another 3 months, and probably will rent an apartment there and just really focus on meeting people, networking and pursuing career opportunities. Hopefully I’ll have a little more career direction in mind by then. But I won’t spend as much time travelling around and vacationing for that trip — it’ll be a “working” trip!
Oprah’s Gary’s Book Club
I made a couple references in some of my previous blog posts about reading books while on my trip, and some of my friends here rightfully questioned and teased me about that. As you may or may not know, I’ve never been a “reader”, and I very, very rarely read books except those that were required for work. The past few years, though, I have done more reading while in Thailand, and this trip I brought along some specific books. Below are some of the books I read on this trip as well as some of the best ones from previous trips. For anyone who’s at a similar point in your life, you might find these helpful, interesting or just fun to read.
- Any/all of Malcolm Gladwell’s four books: What the Dog Saw, Blink, Outliers, and The Tipping Point. All of these are really interesting books, and the author does a fantastic job of explaining very interesting research, phenomena and things you’d never think about.
- Creative Thinkering by Michael Michalko. An very easy and fun read, with lots of ways to get your brain thinking more creatively, and interesting anecdotes as to how many modern designs/products came to be.
- The Art of Innovation by Tom Kelley. Similar to Creative Thinkering, this is written by the guy who runs IDEO, which is one of the world’s leading design consultancies. It has lots of fascinating stories about innovation and design principles.
- The 4-Hour Workweek by Tim Ferris. This is really focused primarily on people who want to launch their own internet businesses and run them from a laptop anywhere in the world. Those people look at this book as “the bible” for building and running location-independent entrepreneurial businesses. But there are still a lot of helpful time-saving and efficiency ideas for everyone, regardless of the kind of work you do or company you work at.
- Leaving Microsoft to Change the World by John Wood. A fun and interesting story about how John Wood left Microsoft to start the Room to Read nonprofit, building schools and libraries in Nepal and expanding to books and schools in many developing countries.
- Start Something That Matters by Blake Mycoskie. Another fun and easy read, this is the story of the guy (Blake) that started TOMS shoes. It’s a mix of entrepreneur lessons, startup advice, nonprofit advice, and ideas for sharing and giving back.
- Finding Your Own North Star by Martha Beck. This is one of those “self-help” books that’s a bit quirky in some areas, but it does have some great insights about how our brains work, and a lot of really interesting exercises to get you to think about where your passions really lie.
- The Introvert Advantage by Marti Olsen Laney. A frighteningly accurate depiction of what it’s like to be an introvert (I am very much an introvert, which I’m sure is no shock to anyone reading this), how to deal with common situations in an extrovert-dominated world, and how to recognize and capitalize on the unique characteristics and abilities of introverts. I wish I would have read this a long time ago. Even if you’re an extrovert, this is a good book to read so you understand why people like me act so weird sometimes. 🙂
If any of you have suggestions for other books to read, I’ll be loading up for my next trip, so send me an email with your recommendations!