Hello, this is Jean. Welcome to my blog!
Me in a Nutshell
I’m a husband, dad, athlete, investor, and aspiring generative artist.
I grew up in Malta but left in my mid-twenties to travel the world (50+ countries), eventually settling on Barcelona as a home base.
In my twenties, I built several businesses in the internet space and traveled the world while doing so. I then retired from active work aged 30, and spent the next decade widening my knowledge base, raising kids and embarking on multi-year adventures where I dive deep into a specific topic or skill and try to master it.
This blog is my space on the web where I share what’s on my mind and in my heart, in order to make sense of things and connect with other like-minded individuals.
What I’m Doing Now
In 2023 I will be focusing on the following endeavors:
Previous multi-year deep dive adventures:
- NFT collecting and trading full-time.
- understanding how the world of money and investing works.
- living and training like a pro athlete for two years, playing padel.
- building an online business while being a digital nomad.
The Start Here page serves as a portal to the topics I cover on the blog.
If you’re interested in my journey and core values, continue reading…
Living the Good Life
I love the following quote attributed to Socrates, which drives home the importance of being curious and examining all the components of our lives.
Quite simply, this is the reason why I get out of bed every day. It’s the curiosity, the need for adventure, exploration and self-improvement.
Layered on top of that is a sense that life is beautiful and we’re here to enjoy the ride, so I want to make the most of it.
I think of my life as being a long challenge in getting to know myself deeply and gaining mastery over my body and my mind while integrating into my surroundings.
My key to living a good life is to put freedom first.
This means adopting a contrarian attitude since our current world’s systems are designed to optimize for conformity rather than freedom.
These are the four pillars upon which true freedom and fulfillment are built:
- Physical (health)
- Social (relationships and status)
- Mental (being knowledgeable and able to think rationally)
- Financial (money)
I know many people who have one or two of these things, but people who consistently balance the four of them are truly unicorns.
Underpinning these four pillars is an essential foundation – the abundance of time.
The scarcest resource humans have in this period of history is time.
This is easy to deduce when you consider that the most common excuse for not doing something is a lack of time. Thus you should optimize your life to give yourself as much (free) time as possible.
I need all four pillars to be at excellent levels in order to be happy. It’s taken a long time for me to come to this conclusion, but I can now say that it’s very clear to me what those pillars are and what I need to do to have them all in sync.
Let’s take a look at them one by one:
You need to be healthy and fit to be able to practice sports, play with your kids, and be pain-free. Physical wealth or health is the glue that holds all the other types of wealth and one’s life together. Without the health and physical vitality of our bodies, we can achieve none of the other types of wealth, or at least not in a wise and long-term way.
The majority of people fail to understand that health is true wealth. They fail to invest in their bodies and minds and aren’t even aware that this is even a worthy goal in the pursuit of the good life.
Training and fitness are an integral part of my life. I play padel, football and tennis regularly and use a bicycle as my main mode of transport. Cycling is also one of my most enjoyable ways of spending time with my son.
You need relationships so that you can share what you learn and also learn from those close to you. There will also be times when you will support those people in times of weakness, and other times when you will need their support.
Be aware of the people who are closest to you and appreciate them. For me, the closest people are my wife and kids, then my parents and sister. I have also cultivated some very strong relationships beyond my family, and I nurture these through my community.
Take a look at children’s expressions when they see someone they know; it’s enough to understand how important relationships and love are in human lives.
Social recognition of one’s achievements and work is a powerful motivator and ingredient for happiness. The most respected people are respected because of their social behavior and knowledge, and not because of their monetary wealth.
Continuous education, travel, and open-minded discussions with people who might think differently than you are essential. As you get older, you realize how important and enriching it is to know many things, and more importantly, easily distinguish all the BS that we are constantly bombarded with from marketers, religions, politicians etc.
Being able to think about things rationally and understand that we all have cognitive biases (see also this cheatsheet) and we need to build our own mental models in order to make good decisions on a consistent basis.
I find Stoic philosophy with a dash of zen meditation and a healthy dose of “f*ck you” thinking (read this and this) to be essential in developing a strong mental state.
I also love the concept of taking the red pill.
You will need financial wealth to rid yourself of the basic worries of subsistence and to be able to travel, afford to live wherever you want in whatever type of housing you fancy, and enjoy the most incredible adventures and experiences the world has to offer.
The ideal scenario is to have multiple income streams to sustain your daily living expenses and give you ample margin to spend more if needed. An example would be putting a 2nd or 3rd child into private school, which typically increases your monthly expenses by a significant margin. You need to have that buffer in your income stream vs current expenses in order for these decisions not to become problematic.
You should also aim to accumulate a good capital base, preferably including hard assets like real estate. Having a significant capital base is the ultimate in financial security, and allows you to make small work out of big moves like moving countries, buying property, starting new businesses, etc.
Money can’t buy happiness but it can sure buy you freedom from many of the things that make your life difficult.
I have quite a skeptical outlook on things and like to say it like it is. I believe that being honest about what I like and dislike helps me find my ideal environment and be at peace. Writing about things that bother me is also a form of therapy.
I consider myself a citizen of the world (watch this). I also identify with skeptics. That means that I’m a person inclined to question or doubt many widely accepted opinions. In common vernacular, a skeptic is someone who requires extraordinary evidence before accepting extraordinary claims. Essentially, this equates to having a scientific worldview. Finally, I consider myself a student of life, which means that I view life as a long course with my daily goal being that of making sense of this life. I also like the values of stoicism and libertarianism.
Over time, I have realized that I am great at going from zero to an intermediate level in sports, or even building a business from scratch up to a moderately successful level, but I’m not that good at going from intermediate to elite level.
This is due to the two sides of the same coin in my character traits. I am interested in many diverse topics, which turns out to be very useful when getting a new project off the ground, as you need many different skills to do so. Consider launching a new software product. If you’re alone, you need to know how to code, how to design a nice website, whom to connect to for promoting your software, copywriting to attract visitors, people skills for support tickets etc.
Most one-man businesses fail in the initial stages because their owners are too specialized. I’ve seen this countless times. Since I’m not specialized but can hold my own in multiple disciplines, it’s fairly easy for me to build something to a level that looks great to 80% of the population and is profitable.
The last 20% is elite level and is much harder to make inroads unless you spend many hours and are laser-focused on your goals.
So this idea of being “pretty good” at things is one that I try to employ throughout my life, being careful not to get too obsessed by anything in particular as it will only lead to overwhelm, and being aware of when I’ve reached the 80% level and can take a rest and move on to other things.
Curious fact: when I was a young kid I really enjoyed reading user manuals. I guess I’ve always had a deep curiosity about how things work.
While I’m an introvert, I do enjoy spending quality time with people, but there are many behaviors that tick me off and drive me insane, so depending on where I am, I might need to take a break and retreat into my private space after a while.
My Life Story (in short)
I was born and raised on the tiny island of Malta. My teenage years were good, although nothing spectacular. I loved trying out new things especially when it comes to sports, and reading was also one of my biggest hobbies. I never particularly liked the way the educational system worked and was quite a rebel at times. However I had a huge thirst for knowledge so I guess the two compensated each other, and I fared well at school.
I was always interested in entrepreneurship and would spend countless hours reading about how businesses were founded and about new business ideas that were being explored. The arrival of the internet was a huge game-changer for me. I immediately realized that whatever I did during the rest of my life, my work had to be related to the internet. Coupled with my fascination with business and entrepreneurship, my passion for the internet and computing would provide the basis for the next few years.
In my early twenties, I attended University and majored in Business and Computer Science, before spending a year in the UK reading for my Masters degree in Multimedia and Computer science.
The experience of living and studying in the UK was a clear turning point in my life.
Although I had traveled extensively all over Europe on short family holidays, this was the first time that I had spent considerable time abroad and also lived apart from my family. I had the chance to immerse myself in another culture and meet many fantastic people from all over the world. In short, this experience opened my eyes to the exhilaration of long-term traveling and exploration.
On my return to Malta, contrary to expectations, I didn’t get a job but started working on my own ideas and online ventures.
Unable to resist the wanderlust, I eventually left Malta in my mid-twenties to become a digital nomad, living in Barcelona and later on in Mallorca. That’s where I met my wife Alyona (we got married in September 2013). Since she was also keen on traveling and exploring the world, we spent the next few years visiting many countries together while working on our business. We lived in Thailand, Mexico, Malta, Spain and we also spent a few months traveling around Europe.
We maintain a location-independent lifestyle to this day, although our travel is slower than before.
I became a dad to Leo in December 2018 and since then I’ve made it a priority to spend a lot of time with my son, which has also helped me to relive my childhood in many ways and sharpen my skills and understanding of the world. I became a dad for the second time in February 2021 when our daughter Mia was born. I plan to keep spending the majority of my time with my family for the foreseeable future while investing and exploring the world.
With my kids, I am getting to have a second chance at life and learning the things that I didn’t when I was a kid, or those interests that I had but didn’t explore in depth.
Here are some of the things that I am doing or hope to do with my kids in the coming years:
- Learning mechanics and building simple vehicles, including knowing how to service a bike
- Playing piano and creating electronic music
- Creating art
- Flying a plane
- Watersports and navigation
Technology & Business
Some of my most memorable childhood memories center around technology, specifically myself playing video games, fiddling with DOS and Windows PCs, logging onto the internet for the first time, and programming websites and simple software in my teens.
I created my first website in the year 1999 on Yahoo! Geocities. It was a school class website that housed the photos I was taking of life at school, together with some witty commentary and other content that friends wanted to upload online.
The internet really captured my imagination on a whole new level, and I knew deep down that this was what I wanted to dedicate myself to completely “when I grew up”.
I feel that I could have started an online business back then in my late teens given how early I was, but it was too much of a leap for me and I had no mentors to encourage me. I did get a lucky break working summers at an international hotel chain that was building its website and e-commerce facilities, and that experience taught me a lot and really showed me that the internet was going to bring huge business opportunities.
In my early twenties, I started blogging and started a local web development agency. Around that time I discovered WordPress, which was the perfect tool for my activities, and I totally immersed myself in that ecosystem.
Around my mid-twenties I felt a strong desire to leave my country and explore the world, and the local agency work was not going to let me do that, so I switched my energies toward building a WordPress resource website (WP Mayor – founded in late 2010). It started out as a place where I could share all the new things I was learning about WordPress at the time and pretty rapidly became one of the leading blogs about WordPress. WP Mayor has given me much more than the freedom to work whenever and wherever I want. Beyond the financial benefits of blogging, I built relationships with people all over the world that have shaped my identity and helped form me in my twenties.
Given how much knowledge I had amassed about WordPress, my growing network, the trend toward building online products, and my decent coding chops, it was a natural next step for me to build a product. I did so by launching WP RSS Aggregator (early 2012). That became the most popular plugin for importing web content into WordPress sites via RSS. It is currently being used by more than 70,000 websites. The product operates on a freemium model with a free version available on the WordPress.org plugin repository and more premium add-ons are available on the WP RSS Aggregator website.
After starting WP RSS Aggregator, I realized that the key to growth in the following years would be to build a team of people that would be better than me at specific things in the business e.g. programming. I’m very blessed to have been able to assemble a group of highly motivated and talented people that have helped steer the projects I’ve started to higher levels and move the business forward without me at the helm.
I started the Mastermind.fm podcast in 2016. On this podcast, I engage in deep discussions with guests about topics of interest to me.
After moving out of the WordPress scene, I’ve been essentially retired from active work, dedicating the majority of my time to investing, sports, travel and family.
I’ve played many different kinds of sports, but football, cycling and padel have definitely been the ones I’ve spent most hours on.
Ever since I’ve been living in cities I’ve become a huge fan of Brompton folding bicycles. When I lived in Malta I used a mountain bike as it’s really the only ideal type of bike to use there, and I’ve also completed a very challenging Paris-Madrid trip in 9 days as a fundraising challenge in my early twenties.
During my twenties and early thirties, football was my go-to sport, but I later discovered padel and that has been my main sport ever since.
To conclude, one of my all-time favorite quotes…
“I don’t think of work as work and play as play. It’s all living.” – Richard Branson
- Native: English, Maltese
- Fluent: Spanish
- Can sustain a conversation with some effort: Italian
- Can read/understand and speak at a basic level: Catalan, Portuguese, Russian, French
My 5 major strengths according to the Strengths Finder test:
My dominant tendency according to the Grethen Rubin Four Tendencies test: Questioner.
Another popular psychological test is the Myers-Briggs test. My result is INTJ, which stands for Introvert, iNtuitive, Thinking, Judging.
According to the Enneagram test I’m an Achiever.
According to 16Personalities, I am now classified as INTP-T (Logician), whereas a few years ago I had been classified as an ENTJ-T (Commander).
Another psychological test you might want to check out is the Big Five Traits test.
Favorite band: Queen
Favorite song: I Want It All, Spread Your Wings
Traveling has shaped me in indelible ways, and I consider it an essential part of the human experience.
Lived in 5 Countries
Visited 50+ Countries
- United States
- Czech Republic
- San Marino
- Hong Kong