Ep. 3: Challenging cultural expectations to live the life you want – with Angie Wang

Angie Wang Working From Home Podcast

Working From Home: Episode 3 – Challenging cultural expectations to live the life you want – with Angie Wang

In this episode of the Working From Home podcast, Nelson is joined by Angie Wang from the Curious Barbell. Angie is a digital nomad and personal trainer who is on a mission to build community through mental and physical training.

Topics of conversation include: Angie’s journey from student to digital nomad, overcoming social/cultural pressures when living an alternative lifestyle, starting a podcast and growing a business, finding a work-life balance, setting and accomplishing goals, and other topics.

Resources Mentioned:



[4:19] – Angie share’s her career path from student to business owner.

[10:20] – The first big step Angie took to begin her exploration of the digital nomad path.

[16:03] – Working through the fear of imposter syndrome when reaching out to potential clients. Overcoming feeling too small to ask for what you want.

[23:36] – Staying busy and pursuing secondary goals out of fear of pursuing your primary goals. Avoidance of primary goals when failure would challenge our story of self.

[29:03] – Starting the Curious Barbell podcast and business, and Angie’s experience with her first few episodes.

[35:56] – Searching for meaning after accomplishing a big goal. Being forced to ask “what now”?

[43:09] – How 2020 has affected freelancers and digital nomads.

[50:23] – Managing the loss of small moments and check-ins with people in the workplace when working from home.



Nelson: Hello, and welcome to the ‘Working From Home’ Podcast. I am your host, Nelson Jordan. And today I’m delighted to say we have Angie Wang of the ‘Curious Barbell’ podcast. That’s curiousbarbell.com. Hi, Angie.


Angie: Hi, Nelson. Thank you for inviting me on the podcast.


Nelson: Thank you so much for agreeing to appear; really, really appreciate it. So what is the ‘Curious barbell’? What do you do?


Angie: Okay, so I host the ‘Curious Barbell’ podcast, at the beginning to solve my own personal problem. I graduated from a very nice school in New York. Then I went into a very traditional path in the office, at the same time I really love powerlifting. So it’s a struggle between ‘Oh, should I stay in my well paid job? Or should I just go pursue my passion in powerlifting?’ It’s been a long struggle, maybe like three years, debating between myself and like, fight against my family. And then finally decided to become a personal trainer. And I found out that was not the end goal of life. I did land my dream job; I’m helping people, I learned so much as a human being, but as a newbie coach, there’s so much to learn and the uncertainty of not knowing what to do with your clients and not knowing like, ‘Is this it? Is my whole life goal going to based on being a personal trainer?’. And I feel like I have such a diverse background while being a sociology major, a literature major, I really love talking to people, I love gender in sports. But those are the things that I couldn’t find satisfaction with just being a trainer. So I launched the ‘Curious Barbell’ podcast to interview people who are leaders in this industry, how they got to where they are today, and like some professional knowledge that I still couldn’t figure out when I was a newbie coach. And right now ‘Curious Barbell’ has become a compound service. So the podcast is the center of the service, and surrounding it we have book clubs, online courses, global meetups and stuff.


Nelson: Awesome. Well, there’s a lot to unpack there. And I’m sure we will do that over the coming hour. But so essentially, the ‘Curious Barbell’, you’ve got the podcast as the main way that you’re bringing people in and you’re talking to other coaches in the industry, is it?

Angie: Right.

Nelson: Okay, perfect. Is your audience other fitness coaches who want to learn how to expand their reach? Or is it just coaches in general?


Angie: Yeah, coaches, and also a lot of fitness lovers, which I was kind of surprised to find out because I didn’t go out to solve fitness lovers’ problems. So I just wanted to know more about the life stories behind the more advanced coaches, how they explored through their career. But it turned out the questions I tried to explore on the podcast were also what people wanted to know. So my audience is from all over the place.


Nelson: Sure, no, but sometimes that’s how it happens, right? You start off one thing and you end up pivoting to another when you find actually the demand is somewhere else. And that’s part of when you run a community like you do, and you’re interacting with these people, the fact that you can have these day-to-day conversations. You have a conversation on Monday, and by Friday, you’ve brought something else to kind of cater for that market. I think that’s fantastic. So there’s quite a lot to unpack with your opening statement. So you started off going down that corporate route, right?

Angie: Mm hmm.

Nelson: How far did you did you get down to that? Did you have like a proper office job? What were you doing?


Angie: Right, I graduated from Sociology at Columbia. And at that time, I really want to get into consulting because that’s what every Ivy League school students do. And so I ended up in a Thinktank, working in an artificial intelligence project. But I remember I was on the way to my work, and I was reading ‘Excellent Sheep’, it’s a book about how people are trapped in an educational system and think they have only one way to achieving a successful life and I was crying on the bus getting to work. That total lie leads to three years of struggling.


Nelson: That was kind of your, I suppose your opening, right? When you were exposed to this alternative; you’d always been pushed down one path and you didn’t know there were these other, not even these other paths, but these other forms of transport that you could have taken. And that was obviously quite a, sounds like quite an emotional time for you.


Angie: It is. Yeah, I mean for me, like right now I’m living a ‘digital nomad’ life. But three years ago, maybe five years ago, ‘digital nomad’ is a noun that is unknown to me. I don’t know what else can I do, except for accepting the full-time job. And only until I started really listening to podcasts and getting into maybe the very cliché, Tim Ferriss ‘Four-hour Workweek’, that I realized there is another choice of life. But I think these types of alternative choices, doesn’t really, it’s not like, I think we always thought that, ‘Oh, I’m struggling right now but there will be an epic moment where I have enlightenment, and then I will change it, I will quit and then I will just arrive at my perfect life the next day’. But reality doesn’t usually work like this. Your contemplating about the options you have, you assess the resources you have. Someday, you’re really brave, you think ‘I’m going to quit next week’, and the next day maybe like ‘I’m still leading a pretty good, like, why not just keep it?’ So I think it’s like, you have to keep pushing out some MVP experience experiments with what you can do right now. For me, I go on to enter competitions to see then if I’m really capable physically of becoming a coach. I went to take international license on being a personal coach to see knowledge-wise if I am really passionate about this subject. There are many, many small steps I took to try to explore, if transitioning into another career, is really what I want.


Nelson: As you said, there was no one moment where you’re like, ‘Ah, I’ve achieved enlightenment or Nirvana’ and found exactly what you’re going to do so as a small step, and did you do those over multiple years while you’re still in your previous role?


Angie: Um, I think what I mean is there’s no like ‘that moment’, and then you achieve everything you could. But I think there is a definitely moment of ‘I realized I’m not doing everything from my life’. And I think for women, especially, a lot of women I talked about, they have this epiphany when they turn 30, For me it’s the same. I feel fine all the way to 29, I don’t feel like I need like to be in a relationship, or I need to do something to improve my life. But I remember the clock turned 30, when I turned 30, I was like, ‘Holy shit. What am I doing here?’ I’ve wanted to pursue my fitness dream for so long. And I just keep postponing it because maybe the relationship I’m in they tell me that ‘Oh, if you’re getting a personal trainer job, and then it’s not really a high social status, like, do you really want that?’ And or like my family’s telling me ‘Well if you are going to be a personal trainer, why did you bother to get all the education before anyway?’ But it was the moment when I turned 30 that I realized I really need to do something because when you turn 30, life is only now. There is no ‘Oh in the future, I might be someone else’. It’s a very present sense of life. And after the third year I finally realized I needed to do something. I started to aggressively send out resumés, and then trying to see what is the real salary situation? How many work hours do I need to do to become a personal trainer and earn a small, like still decent salary and stuff? So it was, I think, is that emotional moment plus, meeting the right person, plus doing the right small steps all at the same time?


Nelson: Definitely. So you felt a lot of societal pressure and pressure from your family to kind of stick to the route that were set out for you by these, well, firstly by your family or their expectations, but also from the educational standpoint. You know, you’re speaking about it’s the thing that every Ivy League schooler does, right? I go and work for some consultancy of some kind, they become management consultants or something along those lines anyway. So, just to recap then, you’d obviously had these passions for a long time, and we’re kind of exploring them. But not kind of fully invested because you were sticking with your main role, you had that change of heart, I suppose, where it suddenly dawned on you that you really needed to be pursuing this role when you hit your 30th birthday. What was the next step, the one big step that you took to commit yourself to this journey?


Angie: I think one, certainly sending out a lot of resumés at the same time and keep talking to employers. Because when you think about career alternative, you might imagine different salary structure, different type of work style. But until you really go into it, you will only know the limitations and possibilities of changing a career. And that’s the time I realized, if I changed my career, there’s more than personal trainer jobs I can do. There’s also like a technology project manager for a sports tech company, you can also be a researcher for a sports Thinktank, you can also like pursue academic job in the university related to sports. So that’s the time I realize, ‘Oh, I can actually fulfill so many sides of myself, if I make this transition. It just really depends on how I want to organize my life and how I want to reach out to different people to build an opportunity’.


Nelson: So was that just through applications? Or did you do a lot of reaching out to people on a direct one-to-one basis, and having those conversations and finding out more about it?


Angie: Um, I would say is definitely sending the resumés, but what you just mentioned, I think what I was lacking is really talking to people who work in an industry rather than the people who recruit. So I think one mistake I made is, um, I kind of get an idea of salary structures in an industry. But unfortunately for the jobs I applied for, I think maybe not every employer speaks the truth. So when I had a better picture of what the industry is like before and made the research. But then it’s really, after I start working as a personal trainer that I realized, ‘Holy shit, there’s a totally different aspect of the industry’. And I think it would have been definitely wise for me, in the beginning, to really reach out to some someone and ask them about what is it like to be a personal trainer, 24 hours? Has your aspiration change throughout the time? Is there a passion change throughout the time? These are the things that I definitely recommend people to figure out before they make a huge decision in their career.


Nelson: I think there’s just so much value in talking, just talking to people and having casual conversations. I think a lot of us are reluctant to do so because we think that we’re taking up too much of the other person’s time, or we’re being too polite. Or we think people just won’t help us. But in my experience, okay, occasionally, you get people that give you kind of negative feedback. But for the most part, people are generally quite happy to have that conversation, if you approach them in the right way. If you approach them and say, this is what I’m thinking of doing. You make it easy for them to respond. Like you’re not sending them a massive essay, you’ve just got a couple of the most important questions you want to get answered. In my experience, people are pretty happy to actually lend you a helping hand if they sense that you are genuinely trying to make an improvement to your own life. When you’re not trying to sell them something, for example, people are a lot more friendly. So once you you’ve kind of decided to go down this route, and you’d done all the applications and things like that, did you end up working for a company and a full-time salaried role? Or, or did you end up kind of just working for yourself?


Angie: Um, I ended up learning in a Ninja Training gym; a full-time thing. So that’s basically what I do. I didn’t build my podcast until I think eight or nine months into that full-time role. During that nine months, I was trying to figure out okay, so I know there are different possibilities of what I can do, but I’m pretty much confined into the hourly base, one person and personal training. Physical training is such a demanding job, so I’m so exhausted at the end of the day. I have these ideas, ‘Okay, I want to launch a podcast maybe’. But I never really took a step until maybe eight months later. I took a course though. That’s another story, but I wanted to Deep Dive into more about cultural differences about being a Taiwanese in Taiwan as opposed to being someone in an individualistic country who has more confidence building throughout a childhood. When we were growing up, we’re always told that if we get a 98, score out of 100, we’re being told that ‘Oh, us, there are two scores that you didn’t achieve. And that you should be ashamed of’. As compared to ‘Oh, you did 98 out of this 100 test this so good’.


Nelson: It’s even more different, right? If I brought a 98 home, I would be accused of cheating. Okay, but it’s not even that you’ve done so well, like it would go even further. I’d be like, ‘No, you didn’t get that. Like, do you see the wool over my eyes?’ I totally get what you’re saying there’s these cultural differences.


Angie: Right? It’s like, the fear. You’re always telling yourself, you’re not good enough and you’re not even conscious of that. So in terms of like reaching out to people, maybe when I was in the coach position, and although there are many fantastic coaches that I can reach out to, but I was feeling too small. I was feeling that I’m not important enough to talk to those people. And it’s not just about taking their time it’s like thinking, ‘Who am I to contact them? Why do I deserve their attention? Why do they want to share their life stories to meet, a stranger, or to anyone on the podcast?’ And I keep wanting to launch this podcast, but there are so many negative self-talks going on, like, ‘Oh, who do you think you are? You’re just a newbie in this industry. You’re one year in and you think you can interview an industry leader? What if I say something wrong on the podcast, and they found out, oh, I actually know nothing about fitness or Physiology or anatomy. And then I really bring my status in the industry lower than before I started podcasts. What if the really vulnerable stories I share people will find it, I’m oversharing. And they don’t care, they just think I’m being like an emotional girl or something’. So there are a lot of negative self-talks going on and I have an amazing partner who has been going on this nomadic journey for three years with me. And he keeps encouraging me, he said, ‘I think you’re so different. I think you have this sociology and literature background, you’re into fitness, you can definitely build something so extraordinary that people with rather a single background couldn’t achieve’. And I was just like ‘What are you talking about? It’s not possible’. It’s through that course I took, that I made a public commitment that I wanted to launch a podcast at the end of the four-week course. I launched it and at that time, I still didn’t have any confidence. I just told myself, ‘Okay, I’m going to make it a four-week experiment, if no one’s listening to the podcast, and feel this stuff, I’m just going to take it like a fun project. And I’ll stop at a you know, four weeks’. But once I started, it became its own momentum, it’s like an organic thing that is snowballing into something else. And every conversation you have with another human being, it just blows your mind by how many different sides of the world and yourself that you see in that conversation. So I think that after a started the podcast, I’ve discovered so many different sides of myself, what I’m capable of and what I’m not capable of. And I think I’m still…in the in this conversation with you, Nelson, I am still discovering different sides of myself, in all this narrative about me right? Hmm. So yeah, I just deviating right now.


Nelson: No, no, I mean, that’s fantastic. There’s so many like really interesting things there that I almost don’t know where to start. Because towards the beginning of your answer there, the thing that I was getting from you is like ‘imposter syndrome’, right?

Angie: Right.

Nelson: You a really worried (and this is something everyone has gone through), I think if you say that you haven’t gone through this at some point with something, I’m probably going to call you a liar. Because it’s just so hard to deal with, right? Putting yourself out there in this position of vulnerability, when you’re almost putting your hand up and you’re saying, you know, ‘This is me, this is what I believe in’. And you’re kind of exposing yourself. I can’t remember what the phrase is now, but it’s probably going to come to me later. But the I don’t know, something like the taller corners, the one that’s cut down or something along like that, but it’s when you when you stick out, you put yourself in a position to potentially get hurt. I think, as humans, we have this safety mechanism that says, ‘conformity is the safest option’, I suppose.

Angie: Mm hmm.

Nelson: And I think that I felt a lot of that in what you said about like, ‘Who am I to interview these people?’ And that’s something that I dealt with as well when I decided to record this podcast. And it actually made me kind of steer away from certain subjects, actually, because I was like, ‘Who am I to talk about those subjects?’ Whereas, you know, working from home and entrepreneurship, and working out fledgling business models, is actually something that I do feel qualified to talk about. But it’s super interesting, the stuff that I chose not to do, and the stuff that, obviously, initially, held you back and you were just in the very fortunate position that you had people there to support you to tell you like, ‘Angie, this is all in your head, you’re far more qualified than you think to talk about this’, and it’s super interesting. Generally, the people that I see that have ‘imposter syndrome’ the most, are people that are eminently qualified, and very, very intelligent. But they’re so intelligent, that they know how much of the world that they don’t know about. And they’re more reluctant to not want to talk about that stuff because they’re like, ‘Well, I think I know this, but then I know all of all these other things that kind of contradict that’. And they’re very measured, and more well-rounded. Whereas actually, the people that are more blasé, and more content to talk about themselves, are generally those people that don’t know as much about the world, but think they do, and are quite content to just be like, ‘blah, blah, blah’, like, okay, cool, right? Okay, you clearly don’t know that much. But it’s quite hard if you’re just watching some internet gurus’ video, and they just talk about something for two minutes. It’s only when you have these longer conversations with people, when you actually say, ‘Hang on, I don’t think you know what you’re talking about’. Or you’re talking with somebody like yourself, who dealt with ‘imposter syndrome’, who very clearly does.

Nelson: And then the kind of other thing that you talked about was accountability. It was when you made this public declarative statement to say, ‘I am going to do this’, and then you use that pressure, but you used it in a positive way, to actually commit you to a goal. And I think that’s fantastic. And I think there’s a place for those sorts of communities, where you can actually be like, ‘This is what I’m going to do. And this is when I’m going to do it by okay?’. And I think that when you’re going to do it by, is super important, because we all like weaseling out and getting out of things that we commit ourselves to, we almost lie to ourselves sometimes that if we don’t achieve a goal, it’s because we never really wanted to achieve that goal. We obviously did want to achieve it at that particular time and then we’re making excuses for ourselves to protect our ego afterwards. So I think that’s absolutely fascinating, what you said.


Angie: Right, and I think sometimes we avoid doing something, not because, in addition to fear that we might not achieve the goal, but might also because that thing is so important to us, if we commit to that, and we feel it, then we really truly feel nothing. Like there’s no importance of me living in this world. So instead we deviate to try to hit those secondary goals that is not important to our core life value at all. And I think during the past 10 months of interviewing people on my podcast. One other thing that I really realized that has fundamentally changed who I feel I am right now, is that there is no issue of qualification of doing what you do. Because I interview people who are like maybe same level newbie coaches like me, or people who are like really influential, and I found out they are all just people who want to be loved; want to be known; they want to be accepted. I remember I was referred to people by those leading figures in the industry and I was so scared at the same time. But when I reached out when I say, ‘Are you are you sure like am I am I qualified to talk on this podcast and they just maybe like keep apologizing for what I do’. And that’s the moment I realized, ‘Holy shit, they’re just like me. They just want friends. They just want true relationship and they just want someone who talk to them now, respecting that they’re a professional, but talking to them in a way that accepting that they’re also real human beings. And so, I think I definitely wouldn’t say that I have no fear in doing things right now. But it’s understanding that we share the same ground as a human being. And if we want a real connection with someone, is because you’re truly curious about who she or he is. And you truly want to build a meaningful community and conversation with them. And with that in mind, there’s really no, ‘Am I good enough or not good enough?’, there’s really only how much you care about this human being and are you willing to go on this journey with him and her? That’s definitely, I think one thing that I wish I knew at the beginning, but this is really going back to growth mindset, it’s something that you can only realize after you commit to do things, regardless of the fear you have.


Nelson: Yeah, definitely. So interesting, because I am, I’ve done a little bit of work with, with personal trainers, and with gym owners, because I’m, I’m a copywriter. So they want their websites redoing, and I rewrite their landing pages, email series, whatever it is. And it’s so interesting, like, working with a few different people, and finding out what their motivations are for doing what they do. And like in the fitness space, there’s quite like a diverse way of going around it. So I’m working with a, like a high-performance gym, at the moment in the US, and they’re very much like ‘hands on’. Okay, they’re the sort of people that know everybody in the gym, by name, they know exactly what their kids are doing at school, they know like all of the holidays that they’re going on. These people basically are so invested in their life and in their journey and then improving their lives. They want to give 100% when they come to their personal training sessions. Whereas I’ve seen some other ones, like through Facebook ads, for example, I really just don’t get that same feeling of connection. I don’t get a sense that that coach would actually care about anybody’s results. And I think is that authenticity, I think in a short term interaction, it’s quite hard to understand if somebody does want the best for you. But multiple interactions over a long time-period, it definitely comes to light, whether coaches, or partners, or anybody you work with, or have a relationship with personally, actually cares about you. But that’s super cool. So you started with your podcast, and you almost gave yourself again, quite interesting, you relieve the pressure by just saying, I’m just going to commit to this, you know, did you say four week period or something like that?


Angie: Right, four episodes.


Nelson: Four episodes, fantastic. So that’s another quite interesting tactic that people can employ. When they know that they want to do something, but they don’t necessarily want to be forced to commit to it 100%. Because sometimes, if you commit to something 100% it means that you just won’t do it at all, because you’ve got so many other things going on, you don’t know if it’s right for you. Yeah, it’s the same as when we talked about talking to people, before moving into a potential new career. You don’t want to necessarily take that jump. You want a little way of kind of dipping your toe in, testing the water, and seeing what’s what. So talk me through kind of like the first four episodes and the feeling like ‘Actually, yeah, this is this is what I want to do. This is how I’m going to take it further’.


Angie: Mm hmm. So I think that the four episodes confirmed what I realized before I started a podcast. We did a fear-setting exercise, which is very famous from Tim Ferriss too. And that’s the time I realized ‘Oh okay, so in addition to all the negative self-talks I have to myself regarding the podcast, I also have a lot of partial benefits that I didn’t realize’. For example, I will know how to edit podcasts, I know how to do interviews, I will be able to meet cool human beings and hear cool stories and might be able to impact some people’s life choices in terms of transition career and most importantly, I will know what it’s like to act on something when I still have the fear. And each episode I launch is like, I didn’t even know this what it’s really like, when those partial benefits become true, like becomes a real thing. I remember inviting someone who I was kind of scared to talk to but immediately they say, ‘Yes, why not’. And I see him telling his stories on the sofa or Type A apartment. And I not only saw his stories being unfold, I also see, like a true, new self for me being unfold. You feel like there’s a huge momentum that you’re building, to push this project forward. And that momentum in turn, comes back and push you forward too. So it’s not just, what kind of metrics that achieves, so I’m going to launch more podcasts in addition to these four, it’s an un-nameable force, that you feel that you are regaining control of your life. You feel like you’re empowering yourself, and you feel you’re empowering other people, too, by making them talk about their own stories. I think the best things that supported me to going on that journey is that after the interview, my guest will tell me ‘Oh, thank you so much for interview, I think I know, different sides of myself. And I know more about myself’. And I think ‘Okay, so this is really not just for me now, this project is also influence other people’s life’. And then I continued to get so many messages from people who were not even interested in the fitness industry, just tell me how much of the career sharing has changed them how they think about themselves. And most of the time, you’re like, typing message, somebody say, ‘Hey, I’m crying while I listen to your podcast, this really solves the problem that I’ve been thinking for a long time’. I think it’s through these moments , these very emotional moments, that kept me going.



Nelson: No, that’s, that’s, that’s awesome. And I can hear it, like just talking to you and hearing from your story like, going from, you know, this, I guess, kind of this transformation period, right? You were kind of set up to go in one specific direction, everything that you’ve been doing in your life was kind of geared towards this one kind of goal. I suppose through obviously, high performance, top university, or college as you guys probably say. And then kind of this this job afterwards. And that’s true of a lot of people; not necessarily the same path, but the fact that they feel like their direction in life has already been laid out for them. And they don’t necessarily have a choice in that. And fortunately, these days it’s more true than ever before, and next year will probably be even truer, is that lots of those barriers are breaking down now through kind of the working from home movement. We have a lot of the technology. But the technology is really just a facilitator. I think the key thing is that access that we’ve got to people sharing their knowledge. People like yourself, who were able to share your story. Previously, like 20 years ago, I wouldn’t be talking to you, I wouldn’t have heard your story. There just wouldn’t be that sense of connection there. And the technologies are great facilitator of that. But like the knowledge sharing I think is probably the most important thing that’s come from this internet economy, in my eyes at least. I’m not surprised you’re getting messages Angie, I think you’ve got like a lovely story. And you’re very self-reflective.


Angie: Maybe a little too much.


Nelson: No, no no not at all.


Angie: I often joke about this on my podcast because coming from literature sociology, because you’re always analyzing the sentence the other person says; what verb they choose, what noun they choose, and how do they know how do they put themselves in their own narrative? So I think that’s it that’s a strength for building a podcast, but there’s also a weakness when you interpret people’s reaction too much.


Nelson: Yeah, I’m sure there’s a sweet spot there but I’m not sure anybody’s found it yet. No, that’s fantastic. So going back to kind of like the ‘working from home’ stuff. What’s your what’s your current situation? Are you still working full-time? And then running the podcast on the side? What’s that looking like these days?



Angie: I think, um, when you work for yourself, there’s nothing called working full-time anymore, right? What is the exact amount of hours that means full-time?


Nelson: Yeah, I wouldn’t calculate that because I think I might cry.


Angie: I think like, if I’m working on a project I felt that it would be cool to do it because people might think I’m cool, but I don’t really enjoy it; three hours feels like I’m working overtime. But if I’m working on a project that I’m super passionate about, 20 hours is like, nothing. So right now, I would say I achieve a balance between five to eight hours a day. And I just launched my first product, it’s an online course in July, I’m still searching for a new meaning of my life right now, because I just realized, all those benchmarks I set for myself, and hours have put in to reach those benchmarks, it’s sort it’s sort of empty afterwards. Like I thought, being a solopreneur it means that you have to launch a certain type of products, and you eventually figure out a business model that is very sustainable, and something that you can tell people about, ‘Oh I’m this type of solopreneur, this is what I do, this my product, this is my services, I earn this amount of revenue, and I live in this kind of Airbnb’, but it’s a very painful realization to know that ‘Oh, all these benchmark doesn’t really bring you internal happiness’. I remember I dreamt about launching this online course ever since I made my career transition. And I thought that’s something that is going to make me so proud of myself, like earn a badge for me to blend into the digital nomad community. I’m finally able to hang out with other people as an entrepreneur too. And I can’t believe how empty I feel. The first day after I launched a course, I was just like, ‘Wait, what’s going on? I really don’t understand. I’m really, really confused right now. Why do I feel this way?’ And so there was a huge shock for me. Um, I think I’m right now I tried to put still like five to eight hours work day but I don’t have a goal to reach now. Right now I’m more like, trying to be even more reflective than before to know what I really want. And what really keeps me alive? And what are what are the things that are really important to me in my life that I should prioritize? So those hours that I have now it’s more like, maintaining a momentum of doing things? Otherwise I’ll feel like I’m collapsing into all this. Like the numbness of it all, I was unable to do things. So, um, yeah.



Nelson: Okay, so it sounds to me and like, correct me if I’m wrong, but you’re looking for the next, not necessarily project to focus on, but the next area that you want to work on? What does look like, in terms of anything that you’re doing, conversations that you’re having with yourself, with your partner, with your friends and support system? Or is that more just something that internally, you’re just trying to work through?  When it happens, and I get some sort of inspiration? Or I see something that I really click with? What does that kind of look like?



Angie: I come from a very, like, normie family. So does my partner. So most of the conversations going on between me and my partner and some other friends that we shared similar curiosity with. And I think it’s always something that my partner can see clearly, at the beginning was like, you’re pursuing something that I don’t think you’ll really enjoy. I was like, ‘What do you mean? I need to build my Instagram followers, so when I launch my course, people will buy it. What do you mean like that doesn’t really, I don’t think I want to launch those kinds of podcasts or those type of projects because my market won’t like it?’. My partner would just be so mad at me. He was always telling me like, ‘What do you mean by market, you don’t have a market you just have someone who believes in you and someone who wants to go on a journey with you’. And through those types of moments that made me realize that I keep adopting the work language I have before I quit my full-time job. I know I have to unlearn everything I learned before in order to really embrace a new self I’m becoming, and embrace a new lifestyle and like curiosity of life, but it’s just so easy for me to fall into those traps to evaluate myself through a more traditional work standards. The question I’m exploring right now is: who I am without pursuing a next goal or trying to find a next goal? Okay, a few months ago, I wanted to be a mindfulness teacher, because that really helped me a lot like transform myself. And then now I realize, okay, even though I’ve become a mindfulness teacher, I’ve launched a mindfulness program and launched a mindfulness course, I’m still going to be the same amount of emptiness that I feel. So who I am without this pursuit of the next goal. And so that’s something that I’m trying to explore, I really want to be able to push a stop button, and to just stop all my projects. I am really glad we are having this three-week road trip to the US, which I’m going to go completely phoneless. So I expect there will be a lot of reflection on paper, asking myself a lot of questions discussing with my partner and just to see, who am I without calling myself this pioneer in the fitness industry or this ‘Curious Barbell’ founder, who am I when I’m just in nature, with my partner?


Nelson: Yeah. Yeah, it’s, I think, is incredibly interesting, this kind of goal setting as a bit of a paradox, in that I think humans without goals, tend to go off the rails is my personal view. I think goals are really helpful. But at the same time, you don’t want to get on this constant ladder of just setting goals, and then as soon as you’ve hit that goal, that didn’t make you any happier or more fulfilled, rather than happy, I suppose. And then the only way that you can kind of motivate yourself to do anything is by setting another goal. And then you like rinse, repeat. And so it’s like, it’s a super interesting paradox for me, like how we as humans can set helpful goals. And not even sure if goal is necessarily the right terminology, because it carries all this baggage with it. In terms of like, feelings that you get through language, I think you’ll probably better to speak on that than me, given your past. But so one of the things that I’m interested in because you mentioned travel. Where are you based in the world right now?


Angie: I am in Connecticut, US. So it’s close to New York, but not really, like in a very suburb suburb. Previous to this, I was in Spain, Canary Islands. And then next after my visa in the states expires, we’re heading to Mexico in early October.


Nelson: Early October. Okay. How do you find the last six, seven months has affected people like you and I?



Angie: I cannot think of like a better way to frame it. Because COVID is such a sad…



Angie: COVID is such a negative impact on human lives. But for remote workers like me, really, definitely benefited from it. And I hate to say that, yes. Yeah, and when I lived in Taiwan, I think it’s hard to people to think about ‘Wait, you’re a personal trainer and you’re digital nomad? What did you do? Do you do online coaching?’ It’s really hard to for people to imagine what a fitness nomadic life would be like, and I was trying to figure it out, too. I don’t have 100% confidence. Because if you can you just go to a local event and attend like an in-person meeting. They’ll have much, much better experience of personal exchanges, but right now people can’t do that. So once you host a meet-up, people are willing. In Taiwan, they’re really afraid of zoom because of the political situation. But now they’re willing, they’re willing to because there’s really not a choice to meet other people. I mean, Taiwan is fine now, but if you want to meet other people like us, so sports science students, they can only meet through online, right? So this pandemic’s definitely developing projects-wise beneficial for remote workers like us, even though the travel-wise might not be the best experience.


Nelson: Yeah, I think it’s because I’ve had this conversation with a few different people now and I’m just struck by how different it is. Some people have benefited enormously, and some people have done terribly. I probably land somewhere in the middle personally. I have friends that have been let go because they work from home, but they just had one main client and that client, let them go, unfortunately. I’ve got other people that were unfortunately in a position where they lost their whole business. They have multiple clients, and then all of their clients let them go, because they were just they were cutting back, which is super sad. Myself, actually, I lost my, my biggest client at the time, about maybe about a month in, but was fortunate that I could replace it with something else within three or four days that made up the bulk of that revenue. But I’ve also heard from people that their business has absolutely taken off. And I’m not sure whether that’s just the environment that we’re in, or their timing. I think it’s very specific. What it can say with more confidence, I suppose is that COVID has, whether or not you’re, you’re kind of in the camp of, ‘Okay, there should have been like a serious quarantine and there should continue to be’, or whether you’re in the camp of, you know, ‘There’s, there’s very little to be worried about’. There’s a bit of a spectrum there. But at the same time, the effects of COVID also have to be weighed up with the effects of isolation. And this is something personally, for a long time, I felt quite lonely as a freelancer. And I was living in Spain at the time, I was learning Spanish, but couldn’t speak it well. And I felt quite isolated. Because I wasn’t working in an office, I was just working in my flat in Valencia, in Spain. And I just didn’t really know how to go out and talk to people, because it’s one thing doing it in your native tongue, it’s completely another doing it in a language that you’re just learning and you’re struggling with. And I feel like that has come almost full circle now. And I’m feeling the effects, again, in terms of in terms of the quarantine, in terms of like the effects on mental health that people working from home, kind of have to deal with, depending on where they are country-wise where they are, even in the country. And like we’ve got spots within the UK, where I’m based at the moment, that like specific regions that are in more of a serious lockdown and others that aren’t. So I think there’s the business side of it, the economic side, and then the kind of repercussions that people that are working from home have to have to deal with in terms of the mental side, I suppose. What I’d what I’d love to see is, you know how zoom has done so, so well as a company, and other conferencing tools, I assume have done pretty well as well. You know, there COVID has acted as a bit of an accelerant. In terms of bringing like those technologies forward a couple of years and generating more investment, I’d love to see something also emerge that does a better job on the community side.

Angie: Right!

Nelson: Like a piece of software solution that allows for the interactions that normally occur in an office environment. The interactions that are almost like quite a ‘spur of the moment’, things that just occur. So like when you’re going to go into the kitchen, for example, to make yourself a cup of tea or a coffee, or grab a biscuit, and you bump into somebody and are able to have like a small conversation about how their weekend was and then you find out about like this restaurant that they went to and then you’re like, ‘I’m going to go to that restaurant’. It’s the sort of conversations that slip through the cracks that they basically aren’t large enough to merit you sending an email to somebody about who will be weird. Like, if you have somebody that you kind of used to work with or whatever, and you’re a freelancer and you have been for a couple of years, you’re not going to suddenly email somebody to be like, ‘How was your weekend?’ for only that, if you’ve got something else to ask them related to work, then you might slip that in. But you’re never going to have that conversation just to find out that small thing. So there’s nothing in the market that I found and anybody that’s listening to this, please, please send me an email afterwards if you’ve found something.


Nelson: There’s nothing that replicates that interaction. The engagement that you have.


Angie: I think that’s definitely one of the things that deter people from going into a freelancer or solopreneur journey. But I think the good side is also that when we talk about those small chit -chats in office, you have no choice as who you’re going to have to chat with. Those are the people that you’re bound to, as a team, no matter whether you like them or not. But as a solopreneur, you’re able to choose who you want to be engaging conversation with. It’s like a very Swish, maybe very quickly identify that this person’s core value is the same as yours. And if you do find people who are on the same journey as you can always find community, like on this course, Slack, or is a circle that we are in, to join. But I do understand that it’s so when I was on the first three weeks of the nomadic journey, I was like shocked by how lonely it is, immediately I contacted another podcaster say we’re going to launch a podcast called ‘Nomadic Taiwanese’ to talk about the nomads deal with this emotional incoherence or what they experienced before is what they experienced down the road. But, um, later, when we were in quarantine, we live in the co-living house. So we were locked down with these eight other people from different nations for the whole eight weeks. I didn’t realize how I was longing for human interaction until the first day I saw them, I found myself keep talking. I was really lucky to be locked down in a co-living. And I do think COVID is really good for a remote worker. In a sense, that is really like just like you said, Zoom and other communication technologies propelling this movement. We can see that maybe very soon we’ll be able to figure out a way to create more interaction, like human interaction through technology. And I think for people who wanted to be remote or freelance for a long time, there is also no excuse for them to not do that. Because it’s going to be a norm. And as discussed in the future of work that this will be a norm, no matter if the pandemic hit or not. And this really depends on how are you going to resist what you’re truly desired in doing or are you going to like talk to yourself into ‘No, I’m going to still try on this office job, remote work is stupid, I still need to go into the office to remind me, my coworker, I need them’. But they might not really bring you true happiness. I think that what COVID teaches. What COVID taught me is it just gave me a span of time to reflect on how uncertain life really is, like this type of uncertainty it’s not an accident, because life is about uncertainty. It’s about just how willing are you to face this type of uncertainty? And how willing are you to see the different sides of yourself through a different type of situation, especially in an extreme situation of COVID.


Nelson: Definitely, I think that’s your reflective character coming back to the floor, bubbling up to the surface, which is nice to see. So I think that’s a really great place to leave things. Angie, thank you so much for coming on the podcast. If you could just tell our listeners where they can find you.


Angie: Yeah, you can find me on curiousbarbell.com, it’s spelled as CURIOUSBARBELL, you can notice I also have a circle community, but it’s mostly Mandarin-based. So if you speak Mandarin it’s community.curiousbarbell.com. You can also find me on Curious Barbell on Instagram.


Nelson: Lovely. And all of those are going to be in the show notes anyway so people can just click through. Alright, thank you again, Angie.

Angie: And thank you so much.

Nelson: And that’s it for today. You’ve been listening to the ‘Working From Home’ podcast with me, Nelson Jordan. We’ve been talking about the good, the bad, and the ugly side of remote work. Thanks so much for listening, and I really hope you’ve enjoyed the time you spent with us today. If you’d like to discuss the podcast, you want to make a new friend or you’re interested in working with me on a copywriting or digital marketing project. Then visit nelson-jordan.com, that’s nelson-jordan.com, where you can also sign up to my newsletter to hear about this podcast and other exciting projects. Until next week, goodbye.

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