JF Brou on Creating Communities and Making a Living from the YOLO Lifestyle [Interview 21]
Close your eyes and imagine what life might look like if you went for it full-throttle. If you stopped working toward someone else’s idea of success, and instead put 100% of your energy into the things that make you feel alive? Foot on the gas.
What are those things you daydream about? What is that vision that lights you up, that makes you eagerly jump out of bed each morning? What things from your current day-to-day would you eliminate? What would you do if you could maximize your skill set, your uniqueness, your creativity, and create a living from it?
Where has your passion carried you? Really – take a minute or five to pause and visualize it. Continue reading only after you’ve given it some thought.
[Insert your dreams here.]
For JF Brou, 30-something serial entrepreneur from Canada, this ultimate life dream centers around leading 19-24-year-olds toward enlightenment and true wealth through entrepreneurship, self-development, travel experiences, and countless initiatives that empower them to live fully.
Also a photographer, community creator, and globetrotting workshop leader, he’s an example of someone who’s dedicated and daring enough to master each component of his life. This dream-turned-reality looks like being able to successfully run his businesses from wherever he chooses to be, engage different groups of people -- from students to digital nomads -- through in-person events globally, and structure his lifestyle in a specific way that allows for multiple passions and creative outputs.
We’ve never met in person, but JF feels like a long-distance friend. When I contacted him, he was eager to connect, exchange voice messages, and even send over some excellent material he’s put together on mastering the art of productivity – and I’m being genuine when I say someone could live on this guide. It’s that thorough.
JF talks a lot about providing value and from our initial digital interaction, I sense that he cares about giving, without expecting anything directly in return. And with that ideology, he’s well on his way to making an incredible impact.
Read the conversation below to learn how JF turned his desire for fun and ‘YOLO’ living into a million dollar business, how his resilience fueled him to overcome multiple setbacks, creating your ideal, and practical advice on how you can easily begin building community around your cause:
KW: How’d you get started as an entrepreneur? What made start your company, InterStude, and pursue this digital nomad lifestyle?
I launched my business 7 years ago out of college with no experience. When I studied for my Bachelor’s, I went abroad twice for 2 semesters: one in Italy, one in Paris.
They had an organization welcoming exchange students, doing trips and parties and satisfying the social life – it was a big community. When I came back home to Canada, I didn’t really see any organizations like that.
After graduating, I didn’t wanna go work in a corporate life, 9-5; I just wanted to continue this lifestyle of living as much as possible. The YOLO life, traveling and having a great time.
So I launched my own community to meet all the European students coming to Canada to study. At the beginning, it was a way for me to travel for free. For the first 2 or 3 years I was traveling a lot. We were building and offering our own trips to all kind of destinations over the US. We do over 21 destinations now.
All these were new travels for me, and we were meeting a lot of people from around the world. It was extraordinary times for 2-3 years. Then my goal was to try and automate everything in the business.
Back and forth, roller-coaster entrepreneur lifestyle. We failed many times, came back, had fights with partners… everything. You know, the whole entrepreneur story.
When I started my business, I’d read ‘The 4 Hour Work Week’ the first year, and I’d known I wanted to live like that for a while...the traveler/entrepreneur, passive income life. Not necessarily passive income, but having ownership in a business that has sustainable, recurring revenues. So I’ve always tried to build and automate businesses with this mindset.
After 4 years in business I was able to try this lifestyle for the first time. I tried going to South America for 4 months, but failed – after 5 weeks I had to come back to save the business.
A year and a half later I was able to try again. I tried 3 months in Europe and realized that I was not doing this the right way. I was moving too fast from city to city, unstable in providing good work. I burned myself out doing this, so I went back home after 3 months.
I restructured for another 3 months, and then afterward I went to Asia. I went there with the mindset of just staying stable for at least 1-2 months in 1 location, creating my own community around my work, doing some workshops, meetups, and just working from that location… traveling on the weekends and exploring the culture and everything.
So that was 2 years ago, and since then I’ve done a lot of different locations. I worked from Hong Kong, Milan, Chiang Mai, Colombia, Tokyo… I’ve been traveling in at least 20 countries for a total of 40+. So yeah, big traveler, I have a travel business and other projects I’m launching in the travel industry.
I’m working on a few books right now. 2 book projects about to launch. I’m all about traveling, entrepreneurship, and self development.
Wow, that sounds like a lot. Is there one venture you consider your main thing?
At the moment my bus operator company is my core business, 90% of my revenue. We operate 55 buses serving around 3,300 passenger a year, to 21 destinations around Northern America from Montreal. 80% of our market is French speaking Europeans coming to Canada for a semester, but we also welcome any kind of international coming to Montreal for a short period of time. So international students, or those with work-travel permits.
From the beginning when I started I was pretty young and had a lot of ambition for this. Pushing, pushing, pushing...always trying to push it. A lot of people joined on board, volunteers and ambassadors, with this culture of a yolo lifestyle and then we just started traveling a lot!
What else are you focusing on now and what’s next for you?
Since I’ve arrived in Medellín, I’ve been building a workshop for the last 5-6 weeks. I did the first one here in Medellín, I’ll be doing it every week. I had 20 students, it lasted 2 and a half hours, it was amazing...beyond any expectation.
In this workshop, it’s called “Become Your Best Version,” and it’s everything around the art of productivity and how to fight the weapon of mass distraction. So it’s all about principles from [the books] The 4-hour Work Week, The One Thing, The Power of Now.
It’s about knowing yourself properly, reading YOUR book before anyone else’s on self development, or any biography. So I state how you need to have a self development journal and do as many introspection exercises as possible.
There’s a few exercises I’m giving, one I really like is the ‘life audit.’ You take the 20 people that you’ve talked to or messaged recently, then you give them a grade of 1-10 without using number 7. Then your goal is to analyze who are your 8, 9, 10s and maximize your time with them.
How do you feel after meeting or talking to those people? Do you have more energy? Are they spreading your goals, your purpose? And by getting around those people as much as you can, you’re gonna feel energized throughout the week to always be growing personally, professionally, or business-wise.
After this we go into the Ikigai Philosophy. We do a purpose statement, 3 year vision statement. There’s so much stuff. We go over analyzing the 7 wellness life dimensions. We try to find the 1 problem that is affecting others, and by solving this one it’s gonna improve maybe 2 or 3 other dimensions.
Then we make a 90-day goal on that with the Lead Domino and 4-1-1 goal setting techniques from The One Thing. And after this, I give them some templates on weekly planning, morning routine, night routine, defining your ideal day.
So for the ideal day, my goal here is to do my morning routine every day, 7 days a week and do my ‘1 thing’ before breakfast at home. Then I take a breakfast break, continue for another hour and a half on my 1 thing. I go relax, and then come back after this to do some communication management tasks.
After this I’m going for lunch, and in the afternoon try to do something I’m passionate about… reading, photography, sports, stuff like that. At night, I try to do social events, gathering with friends. So the goal is to satisfy the 7 life dimensions in one day.
Again, it’s the ideal day -- it’s not happening every day. I’m trying to make the most out of it all the time. Pretty committed to all this, so yeah, slowly I’m getting very good at it. And doing a workshop on it is helping me strengthen everything 100%.
Why is starting a community around your passion so important? What’s one tactical tip you’d offer someone who wants to start one?
Community is what I always advise people to start with. Even if you don’t want to start a company, I think by doing this, it’s a great way to satisfy the relationship and personal life dimensions.
Community can be 5 people, 10 people. Your goal is to build community around your purpose and try to give back to people who have the same kind of worldview regarding your value, virtues, vision, and purpose.
I’d advise everyone to start with live, free events. Meetup.com is a good tool, Eventbrite, Facebook events. Facebook recently launched a new app called FB Local. So now Facebook events are gonna get even more popular. In the US and Canada, Facebook did a partnership with Eventbrite where now if you launch of Eventbrite, you’re connected directly to Facebook events and people can buy tickets directly on Facebook without being transferred into Eventbrite. Things like that are gonna boost all kind of community events.
So yeah, I started at the beginning doing some free tours of the city for our community, like going to a local beer festival where they could learn about the culture.
Think of anything you can do to give back. For example, the workshop I’m doing in Medellín... I’m creating a small community of digital nomads and building my name while I’m here. And I’m meeting so many people who are doing this. The workshop was free...20 people showed up. I met a lot of people and then they referred me to other people.
Eventually maybe in a month I’m gonna do a conference with 100 people, and bring back all those people into 1 big event. I’m not doing a business out of this… but for fun to give back and satisfy my relationships and personal life.
Eventually maybe I’ll have some business opportunities. It’s definitely helping my personal brand 100%. I’m getting some videos out of this, I’m gonna do a trailer, I’m gonna post this on my website, and in the future, my goal is get paid by universities to do conferences like that to help reach students on topics like having a good life vision, life mapping.