Overlooking Mount Batur, an active volcano in Bali, Indonesia.

What a Year. This Is What I Learned in 2015

What a year. In this article, I’d like to share what I learned in 2015. I’ve traveled the world, lived as a digital nomad, sold a startup, released my first online course, ran half-marathon, meditated in silence for ten days and became a contributor on Forbes.

If you are interested in my previous yearly reviews check 2013 and 2014.

Flying taught me to trust people more than ever. In the last year, I’ve had 18 international flights across North America, Europe and Asia. Most of the flights were smooth but sometimes there would be moments when I’d panic a little and come to a conclusion that there is nothing I can do except trust the crew. Most of the time I’ve spent at the following airports: Bangkok, Stockholm, Copenhagen and Vilnius.

Connecting and talking to people allows me to become a better storyteller. In March, I’ve done a skill sharing session at Hubud about getting started with self-publishing.

Consistent work leads to results. Stop questioning everything, simply define your vision and work hard. After more than two years of hard work Despreneur has been viewed by over 2,330,000 people around the world. In July, I’ve released my first freelance web design business course that now has over 3,000 students.

Podcasting is the future. I learned so much this year from different podcasts I listen almost daily and it definitely inspired me to start one. After a quick discussion with Justas in July, we launched a podcast with extremely original name — Podkastas. Our goal is to inspire Lithuanians by talking with interesting people about an unconventional lifestyle, traveling and self-development.

Get in touch with a teacher that helped you grow. Thank them. Let them know it mattered. The best way to appreciate people who inspire you is to simply let them know by leaving a comment, sending an email or going an extra mile and writing a letter.

If you truly want to help someone you need to listen first. In November, I’ve been honoured to be one of the mentors at the Startup Weekend Bali organized by Hubud, a co-working space in Ubud. No matter how excited I was to share my experience and help people I tried to keep quiet and let them find solutions themselves rather than me pointing it out. After the event, I shared some business lessons for young entrepreneurs.

I learned to enjoy being on my own. After taking the 10-day Vipassana meditation retreat in the mountains of Northern Thailand, I learned to recognize my emotions, become more aware of the world around me and relax being on my own.

If you want something, go and get it. This year I wanted to become a contributor on Forbes. It took me over 6 months but here I am, covering design, tech and unconventional lifestyle on Forbes.

Best networking technique is producing high-quality work. The work I do have led to the front page of Medium and interviews with the following well-respected business and design publications.

I’ve been fortunate enough to collaborate with the following business and design publishers.

Sorry America but the Internet has stolen the American dream. Nowadays people are able to make it anywhere. I’ve met so many incredibly inspiring people working on exciting things and living anywhere in the world.

Exercise is a big part of a productive daily routine. I’ve just confirmed to myself that being productive is being constantly physically active and taking care of your body to perform at the highest level.

Touching lives in a personal and meaningful way makes me realize and understand the meaning of my life. Getting emails, messages on Facebook and comments on Twitter confirm me that things I do inspire people and help them change their lifestyle.

I’ve come to the point where I’ve been asked about my life’s purpose. Here it is: Help 1 million people to change their lifestyle and reach their dreams.

Kindness doesn’t have borders or stereotypes. People are people in every country I go to and it doesn’t stop impressing me how great people are.

Selling a startup is a relieving experience. In January, I’ve sold my first startup Refe, a marketplace of natural looking photos. However, extremely important to look back at what worked what didn’t and have these notes and facts ready for a new adventure. Start something you’re extremely passionate about. Kill ideas when the time comes.

Long-term traveling is not as expensive as it may look. It requires some smart hacks and research time but you can easily travel the world with a budget of $1000/month.

My dream of visiting New York City came true. Not as glamorous as I’ve imagined it but love it nevertheless and want to come back again.

Ideas are international. No matter where you go if you talk genuinely and care about your purpose people will find it appealing no matter the language, cultural or religious differences.

The design industry is a place to be. Jon Newman at the Dribbble meetup in New York reminded me once again how much fun you can have in the creative industry. Work is good, but the play is also very important. Oh, and stop bullshitting that story to yourself that you don’t have time.

Some people might be more important than other. I like meeting up with friends but I came to the point where I have to be strict on choosing people I hang out with, I want to reach greatness, and normally spending time with great people will lift me up to that level.

There is no such thing like “I don’t have time”, there is only “my priorities are different”. This is what I struggle to say when I mean that my goals don’t allow me to waste my energy on something that doesn’t get me closer to my dreams. I have time, just can’t or don’t want to spend it with you.

Entrepreneurship makes you tougher. Entering the business world as a designer, I was quite insecure about myself, my skills, talent, abilities. I feared failure, I was shy to pitch myself and my work, I was afraid to say no and hurt people. I realized, It’s my life and I want to leave a legacy after me, build something greater than I could ever be and if that means cutting out some people of my life, I’m sorry.

Embrace real relationships. No matter how far or hard it is to get to someone if you really care about your people and find joy and value in spending time with them go for it. Quality over quantity.

Traveling lifestyle is not expensive. Unless you carry half of your house with you including useless things you never use. Me and my best friend Justas finally achieved our goal of traveling around the world. On February 2nd we landed in Vilnius International Airport and that ended our 6-month trip which itinerary was as follows:

  • Vilnius, Lithuania
  • Prague, Czech Republic
  • Budapest, Hungary
  • Lviv, Ukraine
  • Chernivtsi, Ukraine
  • Bucharest, Romania
  • Podvis, Bulgaria
  • Burgas, Bulgaria
  • Sofia, Bulgaria
  • Dubai, UAE
  • Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
  • Singapore, Singapore
  • Bali, Indonesia
  • Cebu, Philippines
  • Phuket, Thailand
  • Krabi, Thailand
  • Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam
  • Los Angeles, CA, United States
  • Baltimore, MD, United States
  • Washington, D.C., United States
  • New York, NY, United States
  • London, United Kingdom
  • Vilnius, Lithuania

All journey costs were around $6000 USD including flights, transportation, accommodation, Airbnb’s, hotels, restaurants, gym memberships, massages, scooter rentals and nights out.

People make more than half of their daily decisions on autopilot. Meaning that habits decide for us for half of the decisions of the day. I’ve been developing my early rising habit followed by meditation, reading, writing, drinking water, exercising and goal setting. I’ve decided to dig deeper and write a book about the habits of success.

Growing up is a myth. I still try to figure out what is so different of being a grown up. Nothing glamorous actually, you realize that you and only you are responsible for the things you get and don’t get. There is no one obliged to help you, to take care of you, to make you successful. When I was a kid I didn’t have to bother about many things like food, shelter, future. Now having this nomadic lifestyle I am always thinking and planning ahead in order to go places, to meet people, to ensure I do enough client work to pay for my accommodation, flights, gym membership, food.

Rest is underrated. I work, work and work. But honestly, all I do is sit in front of my laptop for 8–9h a day and do distracted work that can be done in 3–4h. Resting more and working less is what I learned works better. Only the idea of working less is hard to accept coming from the consumer world where working less means that you are lazy.

Fear of missing out is scary. What if I ignore this email and miss another great partnership opportunity? What if I don’t go to this networking event and miss meeting my future co-founder or investor? What if I don’t work on this idea I have and someone steals it and makes billions of it? My answer: what if you keep wasting your time and energy on these things and miss out an opportunity to focus on something you truly believe in and try to get somewhere ignoring these distractions?

“You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future.” ― Steve Jobs

Hiring people is a damn hard process. I’ve read a lot about the hiring process, interviews, have been there myself and now once the time is to actually get someone on board is extremely hard. What I learned is that even if you have 50 applicants go one by one, don’t try to have everything done at once.

Never compare your weaknesses to other people’s strengths. As Einstein once said, “Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.”

Own your life or someone will own it for you. As Oprah said, “You are responsible for your life. You can’t keep blaming somebody else for your dysfunction. Life is really about moving on.”

Comfort is the ultimate enemy of achievement. If you want to get something, get up and work your butt off. It’s not going to be easy and comfortable.

Don’t blindly listen to what anyone says to you. Everyone these days gives you an advice how to live your life. Don’t listen to everyone. You don’t have to eat dinner with them, live with them or go to bed with them.

If you risk nothing, you risk everything. Playing safe won’t take you far. Believe in yourself and your dream, stand for it and do bold things to achieve greatness in your life. Winner takes it all.

Climb up not to show yourself to the world but to see the world. Achieving things that for some people might look like a waste of time is going to open your eyes and show you what you are capable of.

If you don’t do stupid things now, you will have nothing to smile about tomorrow. Failure is inevitable, understand that you will not be right all the time, just have fun and make bold moves.

Don’t waste your time with an explanation, people only hear what they want to hear. Do your thing and be proud of it. People who matter don’t mind and people who mind don’t matter.

Don’t think of changing the world, think of changing yourself. Become more loving, caring, trusting, creating, accepting. Everyone thinks of changing the world, but no one thinks of changing themselves.

Open your eyes and look around, you might be living in the paradise already. I rediscovered my own country. I visited beautiful Nida and Neringa for the very first time. I’ve been traveling tens of thousands of kilometers around the world but forgot to really appreciate what was around me all the time. Beautiful and pure nature.

I learned to enjoy running. I’ve beaten my half-marathon time by 23 minutes. On September 13th, I’ve completed the half-marathon distance in 1 hour 47 min 29 sec. After training hard for 5 weeks, I came to the start line more than ready and I came to enjoy the whole distance. Breathing the competition, being among like-minded people competing not against each other but against themselves and their limiting mindset was an exceptional experience. Everyone was a winner that day.

Get rid of anything that isn’t useful. Declutter your physical, mental and digital life. Things weigh you down, they end up owning you and stopping you from making your crazy ideas happen.

The comparison is a waste of time. Accept what you already have, not what you think you need. Getting more and more will not make you happy. True happiness is accepting what you already have, wanting more will create more suffering.

Everyone is looking for the “right” person, but no one is trying to be the right person. Stop blaming others and take full responsibility for your life and what happens in it. Become the best person you can. Be just a little bit kinder, more honest, more loving, more positive, more supportive, more listening, more compassionate and you will notice how many “right” people are around you.

Forgive yourself. Yes, you hurt someone, yes you failed an exam, yes, you cheated on your partner, yes, you lost everything. Forgive yourself and move on. You can choose to keep the guilt inside of you or release and fill it with love and compassion.

Be present and practice mindfulness. Our lives are rushing at an incredible pace, tablets, laptops, smartphones, there is so much going on. Where are we rushing? To live? Life is here and now. Practice mindfulness to really embrace the moment. Right now, sit straight, take a deep breath, count from one to three and exhale. Notice how your belly is raising when you inhale, notice how it is falling when you exhale. Look around and be more mindful about the things you see.

There is no right or wrong. Thinking makes things right or wrong. Imagine you have a great pool party coming and you want to show off in your fancy swimsuit but suddenly it starts raining. There are two things that can happen, you will get mad and angry and will try to resist the rain, but the rain can not be stopped, or you will accept and dance in the rain.

However good or bad a situation is, it will change. You might be going through a very hard time now, you might be enjoying yourself very much but it’s important to know that everything will change, don’t fall in love with the moment, just accept it as it is without expecting anything.

What other people think of you is none of your business. You can’t make people happy, angry, proud, sad or feel any other way. They are fully in charge to choose how to feel so stop thinking about what others might think or feel.

No one is in charge of your happiness but you. Remember that no one owes you anything, you are not meant to be happy by default. It’s your intentional choice to live happily and do everything to enjoy your time on this magnificent planet.

Sex is not the ultimate intimacy. Openness, connection, trust and vulnerability lead to the amazing and unforgettable experiences. Work on your emotional intelligence, practice gratitude and speak up what’s on your mind. You will be surprised what lies outside of your emotional comfort zone.

Life is unfair, but it’s still good. This year was insanely mad and chaotic. There is war, hunger, diseases, children abuse, inequality, racism. But life is still good nonetheless, don’t let all the negativity weigh you down.

You don’t have to win everything. Losing is a part of the process. I’m still learning to accept loss but victory is so much sweeter once you know the bitterness of the defeat. Believe in yourself and keep giving it all.

Don’t overthink, trust your gut and make decisions in a snap. Analysis paralysis is not the best thing to suffer from, your brain is capable of making the right decision in a snap, well, most of the time, trust yourself and allow life to happen.

Stop searching for yourself and trying to define yourself. Just be aware of how you react to certain things and let yourself unfold. No need for close moderation and investigation of who you are.

Wear your fancy shirt, open that expensive wine, eat that luxury chocolate. Don’t save it for a special occasion. Today is special. Stop collecting things and waiting for something, create and enjoy experiences, let go of physical commitments.

When you have a dream and believe in it, do whatever it takes to make it happen. Don’t take no for an answer, don’t let other people decide for you, don’t let negative thoughts hold you back. Nobody said it will be easy, but it will be worth it.

The past is over and future not yet come so enjoy the present because it’s the only thing you can change. Experience the present moment and give it all. Make peace with your past as it won’t come back, stop worrying about the future as it is yet to come.

You will have to face adversity, don’t give up. You have a dream, you have a vision of who you want to be, what do you want to achieve but you will be constantly bombarded with challenges and obstacles in your way. Don’t give up and keep going.

The only constant is change. You may want things to be one or the other way but only accepting things the way they are and adapting to the change will make you happier and more alive than ever before.

Learning a language is hard but helps you to connect with people on a different level. I’ve started learning Indonesian this year and just knowing basic phrases allowed me to connect with locals on a completely different emotional level.

Life is a traveling experience. Most of the time you’ll be alone, there will be some people sticking to your travels long-term, some of them will only show up episodically. Enjoy the journey.

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In the end, all that truly matters is that you loved. Another year is over and I don’t care how many arguments I won, I don’t care how many times I was right, I don’t care if I grew my business. All I care is that I loved myself, moments in the world, people surrounding me, my family and friends supporting me no matter where I am. Once I think about it fills me up with calming love for life.

What did you learn in 2015? I’d love to hear your ups and downs and learn from you. If you’ve found this article inspiring I would highly appreciate if you could share it with someone who might find it interesting.


Originally published at tomaslau.com on January 4, 2016.