Last week I was walking around México City and someone randomly asked me,
Guy: “Are you that bachata blogger dude?”
Me: “Yeah, that’s probably me!”
Guy: “Nice to meet you man. I found your blog post on where to go dancing last year when I moved to CDMX. It was the main reason why I started taking salsa lessons here.”
After that nice interaction, I walked nearby to my local fruit stand and another guy approached me.
“I moved here 6 months ago and started taking bachata classes because of your blog. I also tried learning Spanish and dating here after reading your story.”
A week before this, another guy saw me at the park and told me he bought my Bachata Library, a product I created for bachata students to track and remember all their dance moves. Randy whipped out his phone to show me all of the cool figures he added and it was AMAZING.
Keep in mind, my bachata blog post only gets 300-400 views a month, so it’s not like I’m a crazy viral influencer. But what I find so cool about these interactions is that something small like a blog post can fundamentally change someone’s life trajectory.
But I shouldn’t be surprised. Random internet bloggers have changed my life too.
- Ryan Holiday’s blog is the main reason why I felt (more) comfortable dropping out of university. I saw that he left school, wasn't homeless, and was following his dream. So maybe I could carve a path for myself too. It's kind of cool and edgy to drop out of school now. But back in 2013, this mindset definitely wasn't the case.
- Charlie Hoehn’s book, Recession Proof Graduate, inspired me to follow his journey and apprentice under entrepreneurs that I wanted to learn from. I had no idea you could offer to do “free work” for your role models and find dream opportunities until I discovered Charlie's story.
- Scott Young’s blog documented his ultra-learning journeys like getting an MIT education without going to MIT. Or learning four languages by committing to not speak English for an entire year. This inspired me to take learning sabbaticals where I competed in chess full-time, immersed myself in Spanish, and danced bachata around the world. Three fundamental experiences that have shaped my way of being.
Just being themselves and sharing their stories publicly showed me what was possible. It made me feel like I wasn’t alone in wanting to do something different.
My parents and the community around me weren't able to positively model a life that I'd like to aspire to for many (justifiable) reasons. And if I didn't discover these random bloggers to show me the light, I honestly don’t think I’d be where I am today.
You need someone to pave the way
"Experts" used to believe that running a mile in under 4 minutes was impossible. No one had ever done it before, doctors thought the human body couldn't sustain that level of strain, and it was kind of a self-fulfilling prophecy. People believed it was impossible and therefore it was impossible.
It wasn’t until Roger Bannister ran a 3:59.4 mile in May 1954. And guess what? Six weeks later John Landy ran a 3:58 mile in Finland. Today, nearly 2,000 runners have completed a 4-minute mile and this feat is considered a standard for professional middle-distance runners.
They just needed Roger Bannister to pave the way.
It feels like at any moment, we’re only one person away from drastically changing our lives. It doesn't always have to be in the field of "peak performance." This person can simply model what a different life can look like and make us feel safer to take a similar leap.
- For example I had very little idea about polyamory aka having more than one partner at a time. It wasn’t until I met one person who was poly that made me curious. I researched more about it, met new poly people, and I totally see why people love the lifestyle. It’s actually made me so much more open to being poly myself.
- I’ve always had a strong gut feeling about not having my own kids. It feels strange since it's that era when my friends are getting married and actively planning to start a family. But I met a couple of people that I really respected who were decisive in their decision to not have kids. I’m like, “Phew, thank goodness I’m not alone in this.”
- A friend visited me in México City just to see my digital nomad lifestyle. It’s been two weeks so far and he loved his experience so much, he extended his trip an extra week. All his friends are in the stage of working their corporate jobs, settling down, and having kids. So to see someone like me go down this alternative path and meet dozens of other similar people is a real eye-opener.
To me, this lifestyle is normal. But I forget that this path may not even be a blimp on the radar for others. I'm fully aware that my friend might have come to the same conclusion without me. But it's kind of like knowing what an electrician does vs. having a close friend who is an electrician.
Knowing that electricians exist makes sense, but I would have no emotional connection to dig deeper. But imagine if I was in high school with an electrician as my mentor. That might have made me seriously consider going to a trade school instead of following the default path, something I would have never thought about before.
We are all just one person away from potentially sparking an entirely new chapter in our lives. And I find that to be absolutely magical.
Showing gratitude to these random bloggers
It means so much to me when someone tells me my work has made a positive change in their life.
I just happened to run into those people who stopped me in CDMX. They never messaged me earlier saying those nice things. If I wasn’t on that street at that exact time, I wouldn’t have ever known my little blog post made any difference.
I try my best to show gratitude to the people who have impacted me. I’ve had the good fortune to meet Ryan and Charlie in person. But not Scott Young. So last week, I thanked Scott for showing me the light.
He replied right away and even offered to share my chess story with his readers. That’s very sweet of him but getting exposure wasn’t what I was going for. I simply wanted to say thank you for being you.
I try to do this often. I send random compliments to bachata dancers who I find inspiring on Instagram. I once sent hand-written cards to a few chess teachers from St. Louis Chess Club and even Adriene Mishler (#1 yoga YouTube channel). I never heard back but that’s ok. It’s not for me, it’s for them.
So many people have shown me the light in big and small ways. These random encounters in México City remind me that my work could inspire someone too. To dance bachata for the first time, visit México, or even change careers.
That’s honestly not my intention. I’m just doing me. Living my life and sharing my story. Same as the bloggers who’ve inspired me. Or the people I’ve met IRL that educated me more about how they approach life. It’s so beautiful. We’re all rubbing off on each other, creating mini-moments in each other’s lives that have the power to change everything.
We never know what impact we have on the world just being our natural selves. But I trust that being a decent human being and sharing good things with the world will have positive ripple effects on the world at large.
Tam Pham's Blog
I write about my adventures, learnings, and reflections on living my weird, unconventional life. Subscribe below!