So you want to be a Sovereign Individual?
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March 4th, 2022
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More than 20 years ago, a best-selling book, The Sovereign Individual: Mastering the Transition to the Information Age, introduced the concept of ‘The Sovereign Individual’ --- a group of people free from the constraints of geography and can generate revenue anywhere, anytime in the digital age.

Throughout history, our society is constantly changing, gradually and then suddenly. These changes might be hard to notice, partly because the mainstream media leads public opinion, resulting in a single and manipulated narrative. But the birth of the Internet has accelerated the spread of information. Many people have benefited from the flow of information and take personal responsibility to achieve sovereignty.

Here I am, looking out at the vast Atlantic Ocean in front of me, breathing the fresh air from early spring Lisbon, feeling the energetic vibes at a local cafe, hearing more than three different languages playing back in the background. I put my headphone on and glance down at my laptop to greet my client from the other side of the world. Looking at the beautiful scenery of New Zealand in her background, I could almost smell the homey aroma of the flat white in her hand.

It’s the fourth year since I escaped the 9 to 5 corporate trap and lived as a digital nomad, working and collaborating with other like-minded people in an asynchronous way. According to the researchdigital nomads rose from 7.3 million in 2019 to 10.9 million in 2020 (+49%). Pieter Levels, founder of Nomad List, predicted that by 2035 there will be 1 billion digital nomads who can enjoy the life of living and working anywhere in the world.

As the technology and digital economy evolve, standardised paths and pace (obey school rules, follow the crowd to university or graduate school, join well-known companies or organisations, find someone who had a similar path, get married, and have children) are becoming less appealing. Instead, those who take the unusual approach or find a niche are more likely to succeed. Sovereign individuals represent the latter, actively seeking and filtering information, stepping outside the usual circle of life, creating their own rules of the game and building leverage.

With the pandemic accelerated digital transformation, the world will be a playground for sovereign individuals who can travel without restriction and earn multiple sources of income at the same time. Here is the list that helped me build a fundamental understanding of being a sovereign individual and paved my way to adopt a new way of living.

​1. Counterflows by Lauren Razavi

Lauren is an early adopter of remote work and has lived as a digital nomad since 2013. When I searched the history of digital nomads, her tweetstorm popped up and helped me understand the origin of  this concept.

Her newsletter Counterflows focused on borderless living and featured the six best links on the topics to enhance people’s knowledge of digital nomads every week. Apart from that, Lauren is working on her new book Global Natives: The New Frontiers of Work, Travel, and Innovation which documents her insights from living and working across 40+ countries.

It’s the starting point to gain the general idea of digital nomads and prepare your mind to digest this concept. I’ve scheduled the interview with Lauren in April, and stay tuned for a deep dive into her works :)

2. The Sovereign Individual Weekly by Doug Antin

Doug is on a mission to provide people with the facts and tools necessary to successfully navigate an increasingly digital life. His weekly newsletter Sovereign Individual covered personal sovereignty, geopolitics, finance, crypto, digital transformation and all things in between.

If you are not familiar with the concept of the Sovereign Individual, this most popular essay on his site covered the core principles of the emergent Sovereign Individual class as it stands today.

I interviewed Doug at my podcast Chiwi Journal, and we discussed some actionable insights into the emerging opportunities and trends of the current digital transformation.

3. Nomadlist by Pieter Levels

Pieter is the guy behind many products and projects. His brain baby Nomad List (1,350+ cities in almost 200 countries) and RemoteOK (5,018 jobs posted in the last 12 months) are two of my favourite sites to navigate my digital nomad life.

Do you want to know what nomads do for work? What are the fastest growing and highest paying remote jobs now? Pieter gathered the data from members and published The 2022 State of Digital Nomads and Remote Work Statistics 2022. You’ll find detailed data, including age group, nationality, hobbies and many more categories.

4. 1729.com by Balaji Srinivasan

Balaji has been regarded as Cassandra, a Greek mythology figure who has the gift of prophecy. He predicted the severity of the global pandemic in January 2020. He expressed his views on the future of Bitcoin and Ethereum, Network State, Startup Cities and personal freedom and wealth in a new digital world.

His flagship website 1729.com used to be the first newsletter that pays you to learn technological progressives. That means people who are into cryptocurrencies, startup cities, mathematics, transhumanism, space travel, reversing ageing, and other ‘crazy’ ideas will have the space to learn and earn money at the same time.

Last year, 1729 turned out to be a lecture series in virtual reality on The Network State. The goal is not limited to describing what a network state looks like but to actually BUILD the first one. I’ve attended at least five lectures and met 1729ers IRL. Applying here. ​​

​5. What's Money? Podcast by Robert ₿reedlove

I usually listen to podcasts while walking or running chores. However, What's Money? show required me to sit down and make notes because it engaged in diverse deep conversations about freedom and money with deep thinkers from different walks of life that triggered my significant interests.  ​As Robert mentioned, "What is Money?" is the rabbit that leads us down the proverbial rabbit hole. There are many binge-listening style series that focuses on the philosophical implications behind Bitcoin and use the first principle approach to explain the truth about money.

I love the Mike Hill Series the most, focusing on moral relativism, the nature of subject-object duality, good vs evil, science vs religion, the importance of freedom, and the foundation of value and quality among human beings. ​The newly released The Balaji Series is also worth listening to if you are into topics like sovereignty in The Digital Age, geopolitical game theory, the future of statism, and how Bitcoin/crypto fits into the picture.

6. Founders Podcast by David Senra

If there is one podcast I want to download and listen to EVERY episode, it is the Founders Podcast. The host David reads a biography of an entrepreneur every week and distils the essential anecdotes and themes from those remarkable people’s life, so you can find a formula or summarise the pattern and apply it to your own path.

Past episodes including Steve Jobs, Elon Musk, John D. Rockefeller, Coco Chanel, Andrew Carnegie, Enzo Ferrari, Estee Lauder, Jeff Bezos, Warren Buffett, Charlie Munger, Phil Knight, Joseph Pulitzer, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Bill Gates, Larry Ellison, Henry Ford, Walter Chrysler, Thomas Edison, David Ogilvy and so many more!

Those high-performance people went through a trial and error journey throughout history, inventing and building businesses and technologies to advance human civilisation. Nothing can compare with the ROI of spending a few hours learning their lifelong lessons and applying the wisdom to create and build in the Network State.

Listening to my interview with David here.

7. Books Recommendations

The digital nomad bible empowered us to know the possibility of living and working with just a laptop and a passport and achieve sovereignty. 

Real-life examples of self-employed travel around the world lifestyle to showcase how to turn your dream into a reality.

Build a good habit system to support your unsettled digital nomad life and achieve flow-state productivity. 

Sometimes, digital nomad life is a solitary journey. We have to get along with solitude to refocus on prospective decision-making, rather than just reacting to problems as they arise; The other times, digital nomads need to foster a sense of belonging in a community to maintain mental health. 

A list of books that Balaji publicly mentioned and recommended. 

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