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The surest way to success overseas

April 19, 2011
Manila, Philippines

Tim Staermose here. Simon is out looking at property in Paraguay today and asked me to fill in.

Simon has been writing a lot lately about how the financial opportunities overseas are often greater than at home. More specifically, the opportunity to make money by ‘creating value’ overseas is substantial. As an Australian citizen who has lived abroad for most of his adult life, I couldn’t agree more.

Thing is, not all of us are meant to be entrepreneurs or run businesses. While, to a certain extent, it is a skill that can be taught, being an entrepreneur or business owner takes a certain type of personality. It’s not for all of us.

But, don’t let that hold you back. The core premise of creating value can be applied in other ways.

Where the entrepreneur creates value for his customer or marketplace, you might be the sort of person who is ideally suited to create value for the entrepreneur, perhaps as a manager or consultant.

Let’s face it, no business is a one-man or one-woman show. Even gung-ho entrepreneurs need other people on their teams to help them turn ideas into reality.

Consequently, one approach that you can take is to learn a valuable skill, something that business owners will find useful.

In the particular context we’re talking about here — internationalizing your lifestyle — that might mean becoming totally fluent in another language. Or, it could mean learning all the laws and regulations pertaining to a certain business in a foreign country.

Perhaps you are socially outgoing and find it easy to strike up conversations and develop a network of contacts in an unfamiliar place. In this case, you can build a rolodex of key people that someone moving to a country would need to deal with– you become the facilitator other people need to get things done.

Everybody has SOMETHING (usually a lot of things) that they are naturally gifted at… something they can use as the seed from which to grow a truly valuable skill.

And I do suggest you use your natural abilities to get a head start on something. Developing a valuable skill not easy, it cannot be done overnight. It’s been said that it requires about 2,000 hours of study, learning, or practice to become truly competent at most things.

If you break that down into smaller chunks, it’s not so daunting. It’s 8 hours a day for 50, 5-day weeks, for example. (1 whole working year.) Or, 4 hours a day for 100, 5-day weeks. (2 whole working years.)

Could dedicate 1 or 2 years of your life to learning a valuable new skill that will set you apart from the crowd and begin to open all sorts of doors to moneymaking opportunities?

If you truly want to change your current situation, I bet you can. I did it.

About 20 years ago, I decided to learn Korean. I got a basic grounding in the language at university in Australia. Then I took the leap and spent more than a year in Korea.

It was tough. For six months I lived in a student boarding house and ate rice and kimchi for breakfast. In winter, it was so cold that the (outdoor) bathroom’s pipes sometimes froze. You had to break the ice on the water in the washbasin to shave in the mornings. I used to spend an hour going to another part of town to go to a communal bathhouse that was “foreigner-friendly.”

I studied formally for 4 hours each morning at a language school. Then, on most days come late afternoon, I would take a 90-minute subway ride across Seoul to meet with my girlfriend after she finished work. There I’d spend another 3 or 4 hours having dinner and talking with them, all in Korean.

It required dedication and commitment. But, within less than a year, I’d reached the point where I could call someone on the phone and they wouldn’t know I wasn’t Korean. I could read newspaper articles on economics and politics, and even understand the evening news bulletins without too much trouble.

That gave me a skill few other native English speakers in Korea had. And when I returned to Seoul a couple of years later, my Korean language skill was instrumental in landing me my first job in the brokerage industry.

Like everything in life, getting out of the situation you find yourself in, and finding ways of making ends meet in another country, is going to require some work.

The successful people that Simon and I come across in our travels around the globe didn’t get there simply by luck. They had to make a conscious decision: stop making excuses and start making things happen.

No one is entitled to anything in life, you have to work for it and earn it. The opportunities are there to take advantage of, and overseas, the opportunities abound… you just have to be willing to go after them and find your best fit.

About the author: Born to a Danish father and British mother, in Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania, Tim Staermose has led an international life since the day he was born. Growing up, he also lived in Egypt, Denmark, and Singapore, before eventually settling in Australia, where he completed his education and took out citizenship. Since then he has also lived and worked in Hong Kong, and Manila, Philippines, in the field of equity research — both for a bulge-bracket Wall Street investment bank, and for an independent investment research firm. Today, when not traveling the globe looking for investment and business opportunities for the Sovereign Man community and catching up with his diverse, multinational group of friends, he divides his time between Hong Kong, and the Philippines.

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Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Surfsmurf

    Tim, thank you so much for this article. I love reading Simon’s articles but worried that I wasn’t the entrepreneurial type and that living abroad might not work for me. This was encouraging.

  • Martin

    Tim, Very good article. Thanks for sharing your story about your Korean language experience. There are increasing resources on the net for helping with language learning, including, that are largely free and provide good instructional feedback from other language learners in a cooperative environment. I will looking to learn Spanish and Chinese myself.

    Thanks again for an inspiring article.

    • Staermo

      Thanks for the tip on

      I just took my first Spanish lesson there. Languages come easily to me. I am stupid for not learning more. Thanks for inspiring me to take my OWN advice!

      It’s what I mean about using something you have a gift for as the “seed” from which to grow your own “valuable skills”

      I can probably become proficient in Spanish in a much shorter time than the usual 2,000 hours. Fingers crossed, anyway…

  • SEO Goddess

    One think I have learned after several years of consulting (independently and for employers) and starting my own business(es) is that there are generally two types of workers. There are the creators and the doers. While there are some people who can be both, in general they’re very different work and personality types.

    Creators are entrepreneurs. They love the challenge, risk and edgyness of the start-up but once things settle down into maintenance rather than building they get bored and start looking for new challenges.

    Doers are the opposite. They hate the stress and risk associated with start-ups and want to just settle in and do the job. They’re the ones that keep the start-up working on a day-to-day basis.

    If you are one and can find the other, together you can do great things.

    I am definitely a creator. I have ideas out the wazoo but when it comes to implementing the small details that will make them work I pull my hair out. I hate doing it and eventually the idea fails. I’ve learned this about myself though so I’ve developed a bunch of outsource workers with various specialties that can handle the day-to-day stuff that I hate so I can keep developing new ideas. It works great.

    So, as the article says, if you aren’t a natural entrepreneur, develop some skill set that they need to be successful and then find a partner. It will help you both!

  • Anthony


    This is an excellent post that helped me in a number of ways.

    I am one of those people who can strike up a conversation with anyone about anything. I have struggled, trying to figure out what my particular skill set is, given my personality. Facilitator sounds about right — I know a lot of interesting people. But have never thought about the business opportunities that could manifest from those relationships.

    I study direct marketing — marketing in general, really — and copywriting, as I believe those are two financially valued skills that will help my new real estate investment business, immensely.

    As a suggestion, perhaps you good folks at the Sovereign Man could write a post highlighting certain personality traits and the areas of expertise/business that correspond to said personality. Based on the quality of what you provide in this blog, I have no doubt your ideas would be fantastic and actionable.


    All the best and kindest regards,
    Anthony E. Russell

  • Dana

    Very interesting, Tim.

    I hear Korean is a difficult language for a native English speaker to learn.

    Have you maintained your Korean or is it starting to slip away since you’re in the Philippines now? Have you learned Tagalog?

    I know the main thrust of your post isn’t on languages. Just an interest of mine..

  • Michael Coombes

    Great post Tim!

    I don’t know what problems other readers have, but my biggest one is ‘where do I start?’

    As an Australian employee with limited (though rising) savings I know I don’t have the cash reserves to start up a business just yet, and as an employee I know that there is very little I can do just yet to internationalise myself.

    Speaking for myself at least, I’d love to see more posts like this – ones that get the brain working on where to start and what options that are available.

    Thanks Again!

  • Maldek

    Hi Tim Staermose, greeting from Maldek in Paraguay.

    Thank you for sharing your experience with us. At this point I would like to return the favor and provide a feedback to your points.

    1) “spent more than a year in Korea”
    The way you did it, is the hard way and by far the best. No matter what you had picked in life, going down this road always leads to success.

    Point is – most people would not have left australia in the first place, even less to a country like korea where english is not a native language. Many would simply stay and hope for a job with the goverment, 38.5 hours/week, nice pay-checks and entitlements.

    2) “Could dedicate 1 or 2 years of your life to learning a valuable new skill”
    Come on! Most people can not even dedicate 2 DAYS to learn anything new – nevermind 2 YEARS!
    Of course for you and me this sounds like a small thing but most people past their 20s are too stuck in their daily routines; they can at best dream of it.

    3) “stop making excuses and start making things happen.”
    Yes perfectly right, worked for me the same. Dont worry about obstacles or problems; simply make it happen. Period.

    4) “No one is entitled to anything in life”
    Here I believe you are wrong. Quite a few people on this planet are in fact entitled to things by birthright. It is their families who have maintained power over a long time and will not allow one of their kind to fail, no matter smart or not-so-smart this person may be.

    Do you realy believe Mr. George “W” would have become president of the united states if he was born as “George Doe”?

  • Joe

    I have passion for learning and becoming better. I discovered I was not getting any better. When I got my Ah -Ha moment was that I was experiencing information overload leads to paralysis by analysis. The remedy to this problem was execution and implementation.

    I got over the fear of making mistake. I start to embrace mistakes as a feedback. It was a stepping stones to success. Behind a successful person is amount of failures he or she made.

    Then, I discipline to set a goal, metrics, and commitment to execute what I learn. Just like Bruce Lee said he discard what is not necessary and keep what works.

    This is the recipe for successful. How do we know it is working its when we feel uncomfortable, challenged, or nervous/fear to do something new. When you become comfortable and it is time to taking it to next level.

  • Adrian Alonzo


    You just said what I just did. I am one of the few blue collar factory workers left in the U.S. As a competent electrician I am confident I can find work, but I feel I need a bigger challenge. Also, I feel I do not use enough of my talents doing this kind of work. I have longed to live in Latin-America, in particular Brazil. So, this past Saturday after many years of dreaming and pondering I began taking Brazilian Portuguese with a private tudor. And more over the tudor, a native Brazilian, just so happens to own a travel agency on the ground in Rio, and has informed me she can help facilitate this move. I figured learning Portuguese would be my first step, and by taking that step I have gotten to the second step without even trying.

    The plan was 1) become conversational in the language, and 2) establish contacts on the ground to help smooth my reception. Well, when I finally did one, 2 came with it. It has been the constant encouragements of Simon to motivate me to believe I can do this. It is something I’ve wanted for a long time but could not visualize until I started reading Simon’s messages. Now I can see it! Not clearly, but still, I can see what didn’t seem at all possible only a few years ago. So, thank you. – Adrian

  • Digitallando

    I am an American seeking to internationalize in Australia. I will be moving to Brisbane in a few months. My mom is from there and I am getting second citizenship soon. I’ve never really thought about this heritage but because of this site it gave me the amazing idea to go thousands of miles away.

    Australia is in a much better condition than the US but if I want to leave Australia then I think it would be easier to go to another country as an Australian rather than an American.

  • theinternationalguy

    Good article. Lived in Japan for 6 years and looking to leverage that experience for business. Thanks!

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