1) Did you ever consider studying abroad when you were college? If not, why not?
I definitely thought about it, but because of the amount of work I was doing, both inside and outside the classroom, I never gave it serious consideration.
That was a period of my life where I was mono-focused on certain types of professional outcomes, and it didn’t occur to me that getting some international experience—seeing the world from new angles in that way—would turn out to be, in some ways, even more valuable to me than all the work-related skills and experience I was picking up and refining.
I don’t think it’s productive to regret, but I do think I would have grown much faster as a person had I gotten out of the country, seen more things, and met more people, earlier in my life.
2) Your blog readers at Exile Lifestyle voted on where you should travel for 4 months stints. What was the choice that you were most excited about? And the choice that you were most unsure about? Why for each?
Honestly, each and every vote has been monumentally exciting for me. The intention behind having the vote was to get more people involved and thinking about where they might travel, but also to randomize the decision-making process for myself. I want to go absolutely everywhere, and I believe that no place is boring, every place is potentially fascinating, if you approach it with the right attitude.
So any lack of surety would have been the consequence of ignorance rather than enthusiasm. And I probably felt that most potently early on, when I was about to move to my first new home in Argentina.I knew very little about the place, my Spanish was mediocre at best, and I’d never left the United States at that point. It was a lot of novelty all at once—a lot to learn. And I knew I would flounder around for a good long while before I found my feet.
I was probably the most excited about moving to India, where I lived in Kolkata. I knew a bit more about the broad history of the country this time around, and everything I knew about the place made me suspect it would be a wildly different experience from my other homes, up to that point. That absolutely turned out to be the case, and in many interesting ways. Kolkata was revelatory to me.
3) What is something you wish everyone knew about you?
I’ve become truly passionate about cooking over the past few years, after a lifetime of never cooking a thing. And though my chef skills still weigh in at the Enthusiastic Amateur level, I have a weekly routine that involves baking traditional (and not-so-traditional) French bread that I’ve come to treasure.
That I can magic into existence these beautiful, delicious, simple-but-complex boules and loaves, using only flour, water, salt, and a wild yeast that I grew in my kitchen like some kind of glutenous Tamagotchi, makes me so happy. This process also provides a nice, slow, structured rhythm around which I construct the rest of my week.
4) Tell us a ‘single story’ you’d like to disarm.
The idea of The Other as a meaningful designation. Yes, there are differences between people, and broad, average differences between groups of people. But we have a lot more in common than not. And in general, those who emphasize the differences in a negative way have ulterior motivations for doing so. They will benefit from putting us into categories and telling us that those who have been labeled differently are not one of us, are an out-group of which we need to be wary and afraid. If you can recognize and respect the similarities first, then it’s a whole lot easier to see the differences as delightful, interesting, valuable things, rather than as tribal markers that put us at odds with each other. We’re all human first, whatever else we might also be.
5) What makes you a great speaker?
I truly love sharing stories and ideas that I consider to be important with my audience. I think that’s the root of all the work I do in any medium, be it speaking, writing, or broadcasting. Especially today, when we all have continuous, always-on access to an overabundance of information, but few accessible tools that help us filter that information—to help us find the signal within the noise—having that appreciation for the message is vital.
There are a lot of reasons to talk, to write, to produce a podcast, but if you don’t actually care about what you’re putting out there, what you’re communicating, the folks on the other end of your message can often tell, and will rightfully turn down the volume, change the channel, unfollow or unsubscribe. Similarly, if you’re skilled at communicating but aren’t saying anything of value, that’ll eventually catch up with you. Your message will reveal itself to be an outwardly impressive-looking, but ultimately empty shell. I see the message and the delivery of the message as being equally important, as both are less potent without the other. I like to think that comes through in my work.
Contact the hive if you are interested in bringing Colin to speak at an event you are planning.